In response to the recent events in France, Rupert Murdoch tweeted that Muslims “must be held responsible” for what he called “their growing jihadist cancer.” Rupert Murdoch is wrong. He is, in fact, a mental infant on the issue of groups.
A mark of mental maturation is gaining the ability to distinguish things that we had once confused. Someone who has never studied polar bears can’t tell them apart, but a polarbearologist — who has spent years with them and gotten to know them — can easily distinguish them individually.
The same thing goes for telling the difference between magenta, pink, and crimson; between cats, dogs, and foxes; between animals and plants; between animals and plants on the one hand, and rocks on the other; etc. We see similarities between things first, and thus tend to lump things together, treating different things as the same. (Think of your experience with meeting identical twins in the past.) Only through experience and mental work do we become able to draw distinctions between things.
The problem is that some people put very little work into maturing mentally with regard to how they think of groups. You have to learn to tell the difference between group members; at first you see all goths as the same, all adults as the same, all Democrats as the same, etc. And if you never bother to think about it or get to know those groups, you stay a mental child relative to them. (You’re like the old folks who complain, “music all sounds the same today,” when, in fact, it only sounds the same to them because they are ignorant about it.)
Rupert Murdoch is just such a mental child, at least in the area of groups. He still thinks of all Muslims as “one big thing” — as a single body that can have a “cancer” within “it.” And just like you as a whole would be responsible if your fist punched me in the face, he wrongly believes that all Muslims are responsible for what Muslim terrorists do. On Murdoch’s reasoning, all Christians would be responsible for what Christian terrorists do, all men would be responsible for what male terrorists do, all humans would be responsible for what human terrorists do, etc.
But a group of people is not “one big thing.” A group is not a thing at all. A group is just a bunch of individual things. And individual things are responsible for what they individually do, not for what other things do.