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When did we become so trivial?

Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield in 2020. Gareth Cattermole/Getty

It’s astonishing how much airtime the Phillip Schofield business is getting, says Petronella Wyatt in The Daily Telegraph. Revelations about the former ITV presenter’s personal life, involving an “unwise” affair with a younger man, have “eclipsed the death of Martin Amis and the war in Ukraine”. Now, I’m hardly inclined to shed any tears for Schofield himself – an “unctuous dissembler” who once idiotically handed David Cameron, live on television, a list of supposed Tory paedophiles he’d found on the internet. But the past week has “held a mirror up to our collective faces”, and it isn’t flattering. “Since when have we become so trivial? Since when have we become so nasty?”

The whole sorry episode is a symptom of a deeper sickness: our “obsession with the sex lives of the famous”, and our desire to “devour them” when they inevitably fall foul of our changing mores. The “incorrigible gossips” who run ITV are as guilty as anyone – they must have known about their star presenter’s young lover. Our celebrity culture has become so rotten that its only honest impulse is the “urge to punish those of whom it has become agnostic”. So now Schofield must be “erased, Soviet-style”. But of course, it’s our fault – “we are the petri dish in which he was created”. Every age thinks it is more convulsed by ignorance and stupidity than the last, but you’d have to be “deaf and blind” to deny that we have lost something. “Just look at the dark world of light entertainment.”