Think about a world the place expressing a heartfelt opinion might land you in additional bother than being a mendacity, dishonest creep. You’ve simply imagined ITV. You’ve simply imagined the TV channel that fancies itself as an ethical exemplar to the lots and but which places up with apparently unethical behaviour way more readily than it does un-PC speech. How else will we clarify ITV’s casting out into the wilderness supposed thoughtcriminals like Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson even because it was allegedly overlaying up for daytime weirdo Phillip Schofield?
The Schofield affair is grimly fascinating. It’s a reminder of how speedily stars can fall from grace. In the future Phil was ITV’s greatest presenter, pocketing £600k a yr for internet hosting This Morning and Dancing on Ice. The following he’s a cultural down-and-out. His identify is mud following revelations that he fibbed about an affair with a a lot youthful male colleague. He’s been ditched by each ITV and his expertise company. We’ll by no means see him on TV once more, until he decides to do a weepy mea culpa on a present like… effectively, it might have been Piers Morgan’s Life Tales, however that’s not on anymore, as a result of Morgan as soon as stated one thing imply a couple of duchess. ITV, people.
Schofield’s fast fall, in an irony Schofe received’t need to take into consideration, is symptomatic of a finger-pointing tradition that This Morning itself helped to whip up. This Morning has all the time been a mixture of the frivolous and the moralistic. One minute you’re watching Clodagh McKenna make soda bread, the subsequent you’re watching Schofield and Holly Willoughby play choose and jury to some witless shoplifter or a person who’s had an excessive amount of cosmetic surgery. There are YouTube clips titled ‘Phillip Schofield DESTROYS [someone or other]’. And now the identical has been carried out to him. The ringmaster has grow to be the freak, the scalp-hunter’s been scalped.
Certainly, there was a premonition of Schofield’s destiny in one in every of his nauseating shows of daytime moralism. It was 2012, then PM David Cameron was on the This Morning couch, and Schofield did one of many maddest issues a TV host has ever carried out. He slipped Cameron a chunk of paper that contained, he stated, the names of politicians rumoured to be concerned in an enormous Westminster paedophile ring. He discovered the names by Googling for 3 minutes. Strong analysis, then.
He clearly needed to make a spectacle of his personal advantage by becoming a member of that unusual hunt for highly effective paedos that gripped the chattering lessons within the 2010s. And he received what he needed. He and his piece of paper went viral. The Guardian was thrilled that Cameron had been ‘challenged over paedophiles’. And but, 11 years later, it’s Cameron’s response to Schofield’s low-cost ethical stunt that ought to echo within the cultural elite’s ears, which incorporates classes for media moralists.
‘There’s a hazard, if we’re not cautious, that this might flip right into a form of witch-hunt, notably towards people who find themselves homosexual’, Cameron stated. He chided Schofield: ‘I’m apprehensive in regards to the form of factor you’re doing proper now, giving me an inventory of names that you just’ve taken off the web.’ It was a uncommon show of grownup calm in a febrile time. And Schofield ought to have listened. For he’s now in the midst of swirling, evidence-free on-line hypothesis about his personal personal life.
Schofield has stated his relationship with a younger man who labored on This Morning was ‘unwise, however not unlawful’. We’ve no cause to doubt him. It’s not a criminal offense for a bloke in his late fifties, as Schofield then was, to get along with a person in his early twenties and even his late teenagers. No, the larger matter right here is the mendacity and overlaying up. We now know Schofield was lower than trustworthy along with his colleagues when he got here out as homosexual in 2020 to nice and ridiculous fanfare. He didn’t inform them who he was in a relationship with – somebody they knew.
And we all know that ITV bigwigs have been accused of bending over backwards to guard Model Schofield, their huge, bankable star, from colleagues who had the temerity to query his behaviour. Eamonn Holmes and Dan Wootton have implied they had been slowly proven the door by ITV, partially, for his or her blasphemies towards St Phillip. TV GP Ranj Singh says he was ‘managed out’ of This Morning after elevating issues about how poisonous all the things had grow to be. There was This Morning moralising to the nation even because it was itself changing into an ethical wasteland.
Schofield’s current confession of a fling with a teen casts his popping out in a really totally different mild. His emergence from the closet, on dwell TV, with gushing reward for his bravery, all the time struck me as creepy. There’s nothing courageous about being homosexual in showbiz. Nobody provides a toss. Additionally, had been we not meant to consider his spouse of 30 years in any respect? Or his children? Maybe marital betrayal is okay for those who do it with a fella moderately than one other girl. Wrap your unscrupulous behaviour within the Delight flag and the media will cheer moderately than criticise.
It was a traditional instance of how id politics, and specifically the virtuous glow that comes with being a ‘sufferer’, can be utilized to distract consideration from dangerous behaviour. Think about if a married 60-year-old bloke got here out on dwell TV as somebody who’d been shagging a twentysomething girl, and who now meant to shag different ladies. We’d balk. So why the sympathy for Schofield’s gay model of that situation? True equality absolutely means judging straights and gays by the identical requirements.
I don’t care what Schofield, or anybody else, does of their personal lives. What I do care about is public life and its ethical requirements. The Schofield affair is noteworthy as a result of it exposes the decadence and hypocrisy of the cultural institution. That is an elite that points moralistic homilies to the TV-watching lots whereas behaving in a extremely unethical vogue. In ITV’s case, it’s an elite that fortunately throws a few of its stars to the wolves of cancel tradition, to fulfill the censorious wishes of its acquaintances within the chattering class, whereas the behaviour of different stars goes unpunished. So Morgan and Clarkson are ditched – each for the speechcrime of constructing enjoyable of Meghan Markle – whereas Schofield was saved on regardless of rising discomfort along with his behaviour in the direction of others.
What a skinny, performative morality it’s that punishes concepts extra harshly than behaviour. It’s not morality in any respect, in actual fact. It’s the train of cultural energy dressed within the finery of ethical claims. In each its callous casting apart of wrongthinkers like Morgan and Clarkson and its celebration of Schofield, ITV was making clear that the ethical good is no matter it says it’s. Be a part of our witch-hunt towards reactionary males, rejoice the approaching out of St Phillip – every time ITV was disguising its personal cultural and monetary self-interest within the language of wokeness. Individuals are tiring of this. We’re bored with being handled as mere fodder for the elites’ medieval spectacles of advantage or vengeance. Within the Schofield affair, the power of our supposed betters to set the ethical agenda appears, lastly, to have come unstuck. Good.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political author and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Present. Subscribe to the podcast right here. His new ebook – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is offered for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And discover Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy