“Whose real name is …”

For a while now we have all seen, heard and read news items that refer to “Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.” Sometimes, the names are reversed, as for example, Hugo Rifkind in the (London) Times of May 21, 2019: “… Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson …”.

Something curious here, surely? I mean, as far as I’m aware, recent film reviews of Bohemian Rhapsody haven’t referenced, “Freddie Mercury, whose real name was Farrokh Bulsara.” Nor do reviews of the movie Rocketman reference “Reginald Kenneth Dwight, aka Elton John.”

The reason, of course, that this naming convention gets used when referring to Tommy Robinson is that it is intended to be derogatory, to imply ‘there’s something fishy about the bloke.’ Or perhaps I should say ‘something additionally fishy’ because a brief expansion of Mr Rifkind’s sentence reveals: “… the far-right thug and EU parliamentary candidate Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson …”.

Real life, I suggest, is rather more nuanced. In the past, Tommy Robinson may have made some bad judgement calls, but he also makes some good and valid points. Perhaps a more balanced judgement would be in order and – please! – can we end the tortured naming convention?

After all, as a wise man once said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” (Francois-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire)

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