The tabloid press has given credence to a highly suspicious story about a student in Crewe who claims she was told to leave a class after she expressed support for Tommy Robinson.
Alissa Cook-Gray, 17, says she was asked to leave and given a “final warning for being too right wing” on her first day attending an arts course at Total People. She decided to quit the course after just over an hour of lessons.
Although she left voluntarily, Alissa then contacted the local press to tell them that she felt she was hounded out of the class for being “too right wing” and was “terrified” to return. The story has since been picked up by the Mirror, the Daily Mail and The Sun. However, there are a couple of holes in the story.
Firstly, she claims that the class teacher said “get out, we don’t want people with your views” after she spoke out in favour of Robinson. But she then remained in the class for a (rather convenient) conversation about who everybody’s favourite person was – where apparently she was the only Tommy Robinson fan among a sea of Corbynites.
She then says that the teacher offered to have a word with the other students after she felt they were ganging up on her. Presumably the same teacher who only moments earlier had rudely shouted at her to get out?
Secondly, it seems rather unlikely that a student would be given a ‘final warning’ less than an hour into the first lesson. Aren’t final warnings reserved for repeat offenders as a last resort before taking action? Surely the process for anyone stepping out of line would be a couple of verbal warnings and then a written warning before any measures were taken.
Yet we are supposed to believe, based purely on the girl’s testimony, that the teacher went straight for the ‘final warning’ as a first step, while kicking her out of the class at the same time.
The papers report that Alissa’s dad Gareth was left “absolutely fuming” about the whole episode. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that he is a “big fan” of Robinson himself, referring to him as a “legend”.
Of course, the story can’t be completely dismissed as untrue for certain but, based as it is on one person’s rather shaky account of proceedings that would involve a very bizarre sequence of events, it doesn’t seem likely. A far more likely scenario is that she was involved in a disagreement over political ideology with her classmates and decided she just didn’t want to continue on a course with people she disagreed with. Given that her dad was also very keen to offer his views in the article, it’s likely that he encouraged her to contact the local press and the two of them decided to spin a story along the lines of “I was kicked out by a lefty teacher”.
This is, of course, conjecture. But remember that Alissa wasn’t actually sanctioned at all. It was entirely her decision to quit the course.
You would think that journalists with any critical thinking skills whatsoever might analyse this girl’s shaky account of what happened and dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of things, rather than just blindly parroting her strange version of events. But it seems that those writing for newspapers, both local and national, are far more interested in creating clickbait content these days.
But what they are actually doing is far more worrying. Not only are they feeding into the great Stephen Yaxley-Lennon PR machine, fuelling his much-loved (and laughable) narrative of being the nation’s biggest and most-silenced victim whose supporters dare not even mention his made-up name. They are also propagating the popular far-right trope that students are brainwashed into left-wing thinking by doctrinaire authoritarian teachers.
The sad fact is that more and more people are starting to believe that this sort of thing is true. This kind of irresponsible reporting will only make things worse.
Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.
Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.