A few years ago I wrote a blog about the dangers of people lying online and the danger of people failing to remain curious. I noted how anybody can say/write anything online and noted how narratives can grow way beyond the initial lie.

Over the course of running The MTA, I had my own run-ins with false narratives and know how difficult it is to counter them, predominantly because they’ve grown before you can stem the flow. Take the director that we had to reprimand for gaslighting an entire year group and having an inappropriate relationship with one of our students – his “story” was flying around before we even knew that there was an issue, meaning that when people eventually heard from us about how he was a major safeguarding concern, it felt like we were lying, covering our backs as opposed to the reality of exposing his and attempting to protect students at other colleges.

So it’s been with a grim fascination that I’ve been watching the Phillip Schofield story playing out online and in the press. Like most avid social media watchers I had heard the rumours for years, though to be honest the narrative felt full of holes so I never actually paid much heed to them. The start of the narrative – a picture of a Patron with a drama group means nothing. I have an album in my phone full of pictures of my students over the years with our “special guest”. Did the guest know my students – absolutely not, was there a connection because they were in the same photo, again absolutely not. The only connection was that they had been in the same room for a Q&A or a masterclass, and zero relationships were formed, other than a few students meeting their idols.

The narrative then went that Schofield followed the young man on Twitter – again I didn’t see that as a thing either, hell he followed me. He was a prolific tweeter at the time, and seemingly always followed people with a tenuous connection to him.

However the rumours kept swirling, but with no new evidence, they never made any sense to me. I had assumed that people had some other information on Schofield hence the relentless rumour mill continuing after all. . . there’s no smoke without fire eh?

When he came out in 2020 I assumed like everyone else that he had been blackmailed into selling his story before “that” bigger story broke, after all that’s what happens eh? He now claims that the truth became too big for him to hide and who am I to disbelieve that? When he first hit the headlines in the broom cupboard society wasn’t ready for a gay children’s presenter. We all knew (or suspected) that a few of them were closeted but times were very different then – the revelation could have ended his career. The “I’ll marry and have children” script is hardly a rarity in the LGBT+ community, and once you start to publicly live that lie, the self-torture of the search to live an authentic existence can be excruciating.

When he hit the headlines over the ridiculous queue gate, it was clear that Schofield had quite a few enemies out to get him, such was the furore (or maybe I’m just not enough of a royalist to really be bothered by the infamous queue jump incident). Again though I kept thinking that somewhere somebody was sitting on a massive story about him.

So when the “young lover” story spilled out I was intrigued to find out what the real story was. . . but seemingly there was no “real story”. The entire story was based on the internet rumours that had swirled around for years. People close to the source simply kept reiterating that story with no new information. GB News wheeled out a plethora of people who blatantly discussed their personal grudges against Schofield who all spoke about “the rumour”. It didn’t matter how much Dan Wootton nodded and prompted people with his salacious tabloid headline language (another “blockbuster” interview anyone?) we weren’t hearing any evidence, it was all hearsay. After weeks of negative stories no other “survivors” had come forward.

So was this story really any bigger than a man having an affair with a man young enough to be his son, or a boss having an affair with a minion? A potential abuse of power in the workplace – a disciplinary offense, the erosion of any remaining trust between an ex-wife and her gay partner – so morally questionable, but not worthy of all the column issues.

The press and social media attention has been relentless. Even though no further revelations have come out this one-person affair has seen Schofield regularly compared to Saville. Is this a collective societal guilt because the likes and Saville and Harris were allowed to get away with their despicable behaviour so people are adamant that it doesn’t happen again on their watch? Well if that were the case – why aren’t there column inches full of all the clergy from various faiths that are categorically known to have groomed countless young people?

Fast forward to Schofield’s excruciatingly painful interviews this week with The Sun and the BBC and it’s clear that we’re seeing a broken man that has lost everything. Back in his broom cupboard days, his ambition was palpable – but now his TV career is over – there’s no coming back from this, he’s not stupid. Yet if his version of events is to be believed this entire story is nothing more than the snowball effect of that initial internet rumour. A case of one plus one equals salacious gossip.

The people spreading the gossip are adamant that they’re concerned for the younger lover – yet there’s no acknowledgment of the damage that their posts, un pixilated photos, and reels have inflicted on this young man. His name and photo have been plastered over social media for years – no doubt ending what everybody seems to agree was a promising career before it even started. The infamous “broken young man” that the Loose Women were allegedly trying to “save” might have been the “broken young man” that the internet created. We have no evidence to date that his relationship with Schofield had a negative impact on him.

Nobody can understand why the “lover” hasn’t spoken up – so a rumour had an answer for that question – there was a super injunction stopping him speaking out – yet Schofield insists that no such injunction exists. Schofield is now a known liar, but would he have the audacity to lie in an interview where he’s supposedly setting the record straight?

In fact in Schofield’s interview he debunked nearly every single rumour attached to the story. It wasn’t a pity piece – never have I witnessed an interview so desperate. Some claim that it was just PR – a desperate attempt to salvage his name, but I didn’t see or hear that at all. I heard a man that had had enough of everybody else spinning a story. I heard a man that wanted his voice heard. I heard a man saying that he had nothing left to live for, and yet I read the headlines saying that he was just being manipulative, and that he was still just trying to silence his lover and how dare he play the “suicide” card.

The same people that had been “hearing stories about him for years”, were now doubting his pain. Such was the narrative of hate there was no budging from it. My favorite post. . . the tweet where somebody bemoaned Schofield for playing the “suicide” card as it had made GB News question whether they should keep going at him. Like WTF?? Hell, they even turned on Alison Hammond when she got emotional watching the interview – though I suspect that the real issue there was because Hammond admitted that she liked him. Up until that point, anybody speaking about him clearly had an issue with him. She sort of broke the illusion.

Whatever the truth is we all know that his lover would have been offered thousands of pounds in order to tell his version of events. So why hasn’t he? Maybe like Schofield, he’s bemused how much a rumour has turned into people’s reality. Whatever he says people won’t believe him.

The people saying that Schofield’s had a good run and he’s got enough money to retire on have completely missed the klaxon that should be ringing in all of our ears right now – what if “they” come after you next? What if your life was rewritten turning you from hero to zero within 24 hours? How could you defend yourself when somebody creates a narrative about you?

In my original blog on this topic I spoke about my friend who also spoke about ending his life because he couldn’t cope with the negative publicity one liar had created for him. He couldn’t understand why other people would pile on with more lies. Who were these people? His drama took place in a tiny couple of online groups full of people that lived in his neighborhood. How that must feel when you’re literally the national news for several weeks I don’t know.

I don’t know any of the people involved in this story, but as somebody watching on the sidelines it feels like a gladiator grudge match. . . and we all know how they end.