"Out-group homogeneity bias." That was my thought on seeing the posters of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston outside Bush House this morning.
I suspect he's a victim of this bias. When his kidnappers took him, they probably just saw a westerner, and inferred - with all westerners being the same - that he was a supporter of Israel. They were oblivious to the heterogeneity of western opinion and the fact that Johnston is (oddly for a BBC man) a "friend of the Palestinian people."
But of course, it's not just Palestinian kidnappers who commit this error. We all do. Whenever someone speaks of the "Muslim community" or "Iranians", they also commit it - and the error is not mitigated much by glib distinctions between "moderates" and "extremists".
I never think of myself as belonging to the white secular liberal community, because we white secular liberals are all unique, diverse individuals.
It's only "they" who are an undifferentiated mass.