The human mind is like a huge filing cabinet full of bits of data neatly filed in compartments. Like data with like data. We make decisions based on experience that tells us if something is an A it is likely to behave like other A's we've encountered in the past.
It is what makes people discriminating, both good and bad.
It is the phenomenon that gives us exit polls, over which politicians and their handlers pore in exhaustive detail trying to explain why middle-aged white women are abandoning Hillary Clinton and voting for Barack Obama. As though everyone in a certain demographic thinks and acts alike.
This prompted radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to quip that at least second-generation transgendered amputees are still supporting Clinton.
Which, speaking of Limbaugh, brings us to today's topic: The perception that all news media are biased.
The Clintons are accusing the media of being biased in favor of Obama.
The aforementioned Limbaugh is accusing The New York Times of endorsing John McCain just so it could turn around and print on the front page Thursday a 9-year-old story about some of McCain's associates fearing he and a female lobbyist might have been getting too cozy -- getting to the point by saying both denied ever being romantically involved. If the Times asked, McCain might also deny beating his wife, cheating on his taxes and reciting vulgar limericks in the back of the Straight Talk Express bus.
Earlier in the week on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn, a journalist and former speech writer for President Bush, issued a wholesale indictment of the news media.
"When a man hangs up his byline to write for a president," McGurn began, "he gets more than a new job. He gets to see how the press and the pundit corps look from the other side of the notepad."
He proceeded to relate how the press stuck to "the same stale story line long after the facts on the ground have changed" -- on the economy, on stem cell research and on the war. He noted that no one acknowledged the Bush tax cuts generated record tax revenue. Nor did anyone say never mind about the stem cells veto when an alternative to killing fetuses was later found. And those who predicted the surge in Iraq would fail militarily, symbolically and politically are hardly recanting now that the surge is working.
But for the classic square peg where there should be a round hole, turn to the recently released autobiography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, "My Grandfather's Son." Reared by his grandparents in segregated Pinpoint, Ga., Thomas was well on his way to being another angry black man. He even admits being involved in a riot in Boston in the spring of 1970.
"Off we went, chanting 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh' and demanding freedom for Angela Davis, Erica Huggins, and anyone else we could think of," Thomas writes. "When we came to a liquor store, the owner, fearing that we would smash it up, gave some of us the wine we wanted for free. From there we drank our way to Harvard Square, where our disorderly parade deteriorated into a full-scale riot."
He read the novels of angry black writers and identified with them. But he also read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." He later discovered economist and columnist Thomas Sowell. He registered as a Republican, was appointed to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by President Reagan and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That is when the liberal and media buzz saw hit him full force.
To this day Thomas is bitter about the way the press repeated without question the outrageous allegations of misconduct leveled against him by a former low-level staffer.
In the book, he recounts his bitter testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kowtow to an order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree."
No, it was not because he was black. It was because of those different ideas.
You see, not all black men, and not all journalists, are knee-jerk liberals. Nine times out of 10, perhaps. Not everyone fits into a preordained niche.
No matter how hard we push.
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of free speech and press. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org