could be both intellectually and emotionally reassuring.
Yet, something more than a demand for simplicity and order is involved. In this connection, the way in which anger and distress lead to a demand for the identification of a responsible individual or group, which is brought out by Professor Allport in his discussion of the psychological process of "scapegoating," is directly relevant to our discussion. "The common use of the orphaned pronoun 'they,"' says Allport, "teaches us that people often want and need to designate out-groups--usually for the purpose of venting hostility. . . .". And Daniel Bell attributes part of the attractiveness of the
theory of a Mafia and national crime syndicate to the fact that there is in the American temper, a feeling that "somewhere," "somebody" is pulling all the complicated strings to which this jumbled world dances. In politics the labor image is "Wall Street" or "Big Business"; while the business stereotype was the "New Dealers."
In the field of crime, the national crime syndicate provides a specific focus or target for fear and discontent.
There is, of course, nothing exclusively or peculiarly American about this process. The popularity of "conspiracy" theories throughout history reflects a general human tendency. The objectification and institutionalization of fear reactions is not a native American development. Yet, as Richard Hofstadter demonstrates in his brilliant essay on "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," American history is singularly rich in examples of "conspiratorial fantasy." It is true that Hofstadter says, "the paranoid style is an international phenomenon." But he also admits that "it can be argued . . . that certain features of our history have given the paranoid style more scope and force among us than it has had in many other countries of the Western world." It is relevant to note here that, in describing "the basic elements in the paranoid style," Hofstadter says that "the central image is that of a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic and yet subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life."
Yet, so much having been said about irrational factors that may be regarded as conducive to the acceptance of the notion of an all-powerful syndicate that dominates American crime, it remains true that the validity of an idea and the reasons for its popularity may be quite independent of one another.
Daniel P. Moynihan. The private government of crime.
One of the largest and surely one of the most profitable industries in the United States is that unusual complex of skills and services known as organized crime. There is nothing secret about this modern big business. Tens of millions of Americans regularly come in contact with crime when they patronize a numbers runner, a bookmaker, or an after-hours drinking club, as well as when they become more than casually involved in any of the fifty-odd areas of racket infiltration, ranging alphabetically from advertising to transportation, that the Kefauver Committee uncovered.
Organized crime obviously has something to sell that many people want to buy. Yet always behind the pleasures of vice lie the ugliness of degradation and the terror of violence. It is pleasant to think of winning a lot of money, not so pleasant for an Irish tenement kid to stare at what is left of his father's face after the smiling bookies' psychotic "enforcers" have collected the hard way. We can all sympathize with the shame of parents who learn that their son in college has been paid off to shave the score of a basketball game, but most of us find it difficult even to imagine the feelings of Puerto Rican parents the first time their daughter comes down from the roof "high" on heroin.
But even thousands of personal tragedies like these may not be the worst by-products
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Is America Necessary?Conservative, Liberal, & Socialist Perspectives of United States Political Institutions. Contributors: Henry Etzkowitz - Editor, Peter Schwab - Editor. Publisher: West Publishing. Place of publication: St. Paul, MN. Publication year: 1976. Page number: 264.
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