All the players slip into their assigned roles. Straight reporters are doing good, hard work. But the flow of information is not fast enough to keep up with 24/7 programming, so you get this toxic deluge of raw speculation.

The accused’s political opponents assume maximum guilt. Imaginative pundits take a few dots of information and connect them to vast if speculative constellations of guilt. “I hear the indictments are coming down next week,” they whisper to one another.

Members of the accused’s party attack the investigators themselves. They get to enjoy their own sense of spiritual superiority when it turns out the scandal is much smaller than it appeared, which is almost always the case.

It’s all a wonderful game. You don’t have to know anything about a boring policy subject like economics, poverty or foreign affairs. You can have a long career in politics and media by simply treating public life as an arena of life-or-death gossip.