An example of this mindset was recounted in a recent essay by Ralph de Toledano, who told of being a young reporter, years ago, during a case involving Whittaker Chambers against Alger Hiss. Chambers claimed that Hiss had been a spy for the Soviet Union, operating at the highest levels of the American government.
The charges against Hiss began as just one man's word against another's. No one knew who was lying but virtually everyone took sides.
Among the reporters and the intelligentsia, it was widely assumed that Hiss was innocent and Chambers was lying. De Toledano recalled that those few reporters who thought that Hiss might be the one who was lying were immediately ostracized by other reporters.
Why? Because Hiss was in so many ways one of them -- in politics, in manner, in lifestyle. He was a New Deal liberal, an Ivy League-educated young man, trim, erect, well-spoken, a member and leader of the kinds of prestigious organizations that liberals looked up to. Chambers was a paunchy old man in rumpled clothes who slouched and was obviously anti-Soviet.
To the reporters, Hiss was one of Us and Chambers was one of Them. Like today's young man who would be content to reach a verdict after hearing only one side of a case, the press chose to believe Hiss, their fellow true believer.
Many chose to continue to believe Hiss even after the evidence that came out at the trial sent him to prison -- and some continue to believe even today, despite information from the secret files of the former Soviet Union which added more damning evidence against Hiss.
The time is long overdue for our media and our educational institutions to start presenting both sides of issues -- and for our schools and colleges to start teaching students how to think, instead of telling them what to think.
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