Times of Malta broke the story. That’s how it almost always starts.

The police spoke to the Labour MP who was at the centre of the scheme of forgeries and benefit fraud to consolidate the partisan support of likely voters of the Labour Party who have fallen on hard times. The police arrested the MP and interrogated him. He resigned from Parliament and withdrew from electoral politics altogether as a result. Dozens of people he helped defraud the government to siphon off thousands of euros were charged in court and were made to – somehow – pay back what they made from the scheme.

The MP resigned nearly two years ago. The charges against the people he helped were issued over the period since. And yet you didn’t hear of any of this until Times of Malta told you about it yesterday.

This is a country where you can hide the resignation of an MP and the prosecution of dozens of benefit fraudsters in plain sight. Everyone would miss it because under normal circumstances the resignation of an MP would be addressed. It would not be covered up or explained away as something that happened “for personal reasons”. A political party would turn the possible damage from a rogue element discovered in its ranks by making a point of forcing them out, of disassociating themselves from the wrongdoing, of denouncing it and warning anyone who might be tempted to exploit their influence in public life to defraud the public of its money that the Labour Party won’t have their back when they’re exposed.

Here’s what happens every time there’s a scandal. The government, and the media it controls, ignore it. None of them reported on it yesterday. Robert Abela, who spoke in public just hours after the story hit the news-stands, stuck to his script. He did not acknowledge the existence of the story, made no attempt to tone it down, did not seek to explain it in anyway whatsoever.

Since the story didn’t make it to One News for many people it’s like it never happened. The only oblique reference to the discovery on TVM was in the context of Bernard Grech’s comments about it. And whatever Bernard Grech said about it was framed in that too often misunderstood qualifier: the “allegations” made by Times of Malta. “Allegations” are something someone said without judgement on whether it is true or not. The word “allegation”, however, has come now to mean that whatever follows it must be the product of a lie.

Alleging a Labour MP gave forged certificates for eligibility for a benefit scheme to dozens of people who have since been charged in court is in no way more plausible for TVM than alleging Martians live among us and vote ADPD.

The police are already prosecuting the people who unlawfully took the money. So they should. By all accounts it seems that the unlawful beneficiaries are people in need, some of them desperate need. Some misfortune has befallen them, some poverty, some depravation, some illness, some addiction, that has meant that 400 euro a month, even if stolen, has made a considerable difference in their lives. Paying back 10,000 euro they cashed over several years will for them be financially devastating.

It matters that they stole the money. It also matters that they were helped by persons in authority in whom it was reasonable for them to trust. It’s like they stole from the bank but it was the branch manager who gave them the key. An MP, and it seems, the office of the prime minister itself, as well as the private staff of ministers, told them it was ok to take that money. Some will have figured out that wasn’t true and took it anyway out of the warped morality that if everybody does it, why should they be the idiots to leave the money for someone wiser to pick up. Some, it seems, didn’t understand they weren’t eligible for the money they were told to take. And who can blame them?

What also matters is that conversations with people in genuine need, in outright deprivation, who spoke to their MP and their minister and their party about their suffering, did not lead to new social policies to address the pain of all people in this situation. The people with political power didn’t use that power to make life better for the weakest in our society. They didn’t do the socialist thing, or the Christian thing, or the liberal, or progressive, or humane thing: whatever you want to call it. They didn’t go to Parliament to raise, say, VAT by 1% to pay for a new scheme to give some relief to people in these situations.

Instead, these politicians exploited the suffering of the people who complained to them, made sure they could not obtain relief without their (unlawful) intervention, and in an act of false charity, rather than policy which is the proper job of politicians, arranged for them to get money they were not entitled to. They kept the poor poor so they would force them to be grateful for their charity.

In the process they deprived people in identical situations who were not supporters of their party and who were not voting in their constituencies. They perpetrated a cruel act of discrimination. It’s like replacing old age pensions for everyone of a certain age with charity reserved for people of a certain tribe.

The people who took the money committed benefit fraud. The people who gave them the money or arranged for them to get it committed electoral fraud and partisan discrimination.

The people who took the money are being prosecuted. The people who gave them the money or arranged for them to get it will either not be prosecuted or will be unsuccessfully prosecuted in interminable processes that get nowhere.

The increasing pressure coming from the opposition party or from people who are perceived to support it (like Repubblika, for example) will strengthen the conviction of supporters of the government that the episode is yet another unproven “allegation”, for which read lie.

If I sound exhausted it’s because that’s how I feel right now. I’m tired of being angry, of being shocked, of feeling nauseous from some new dizzying stench, some new rotting corpse. I’m tired of reading from a playbook they wrote to preserve their power and protect their profit. I’m tired of predicting the same inevitable outcome, the nothingness that follows scandal, the resigned acceptance and helplessness that breeds contempt for the law and by inevitable and moribund consequence even more corruption.

If the village doctor you look up to, the party you subscribe to, the ministers you support and vote for, are themselves rotten and share in the benefits of their greed with you because you keep them there, then how can you remember what’s right or what’s wrong? Even if you do how can you be expected to turn down the last 400 euro in the world that will separate you from homelessness and outright destitution?

I can’t bring myself to say that the benefit fraudsters in this case should be let go. But I can’t bring myself to see in these, the poorest and the least advantaged among us, some corrupt perfidy that I must despise. Two characteristics bind them, they are poor, and they support the Labour Party and neither of those two subsets fits neatly in a Venn diagram bubble of people I must dislike.

I feel pity for them because their poverty and their loyalty have been exploited by evil men who are worse than champagne socialists or pigs sleeping in beds without sheets. Their exploiters are hardened criminals who recruit low-end criminals to work for them because their recruits have no other choice. They have urgent needs and no options, both because of the failure of the criminal politicians who have captured their lives.

One exhausting fact about this umpteenth scandal is that we’ve seen too many like it to even imagine this is the last. There’s another rotting corpse two Sundays from now, another scandal unearthed pointlessly by journalists and ignored by everyone else. Because this is the choice we make. This is our life now.