You may have seen the utterly nonsense story doing the rounds today that Islington Council has banned pork in our primary schools.
It’s a great example of how the modern media works. A story is exaggeration beyond the point of truth by stretched journalists at a local paper struggling for circulation then seized upon by the likes of Mail Online and Guido Fawkes to push a political agenda, who re-run as ‘click-bait’ without ever bothering to check the accuracy of the original story.
For the record, pork is not banned in Islington’s primary schools. Most don’t choose to serve it for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that it’s quite hard to monitor the food choices of both Jewish and Muslim children in our primary schools and so most find it easier not to serve it. Pork is available in our secondary schools.
But the point is that pork isn’t banned and any school that wants to serve pork could. No big deal.
But in the hands of people determined to push an agenda stories like this can become dangerous. One look at the Twitter and blog comments on this story paints a clear, and troubling, picture of how a story like this gets read:
“Creeping Islamization continues apace and no one seems to care. New immigrants should have the bacon butty test.”
“They aren’t even pretending to care about the national good anymore, it’s all about appeasing the minority to make their transition to majority as easy as possible.”
“No football in school. Prevents them becoming hooligans. As arabs (sic), Pakistans (sic), Indians, chinese (sic) don’t play it very well it should be completely banned from schools.”
“It’s too late people. The country has been lost.”
Alright, there have always been a few fruit cakes but it has become more acceptable over the last few years for the media to run stories like this that stoke community tensions.
Islington is a diverse and tolerant place. Despite our media image we’re actually one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. But we have such a mix of people that everyone tends to get on pretty well and because of a lot of hard work we’ve got a lot of things going in the right direction. For example, youth unemployment is falling dramatically and we’ve got some of the best performing schools in the whole country.
Yes, like every other community, ours has some tensions. And for these to be exacerbated because a story is too juicy to fact check marks out just how far the standard of public debate in this country has fallen.