Comeau, S. (February 24, 2000). ˘Romancing the mafia.÷ McGill Reporter, 32, 11. Accessed October 13, 2003. WWW: <˘http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/32/11/mafia/÷>.
In his book titled The greatest menace: Organized crime in cold war America, Lee Bernstein also argues that the representation of the Italian mafia in American media relies more on a mythology of the mafia generated by the media than on any empirical reality. Bernstein draws on an analysis of government records, films, television shows, and pulp novels to argue that the media-generated image of the mafia has persisted because it fulfills a psycho-social need in American society (Von Lampe, 2003). In particular, Bernstein argues that the image of the Italian mafioso offered a common enemy for Cold War Americans living in a time of great uncertainty and rapid social change. Americans were willing to believe in the idea of a nationally-organized group of foreign-born criminals rather than focus on native-born lawbreaking whites and the troubling social problems and remedies associated with such ˘homegrown÷ criminals (Von Lampe, 2003). Bernstein argues further, however, that the myth of the Italian mafia allowed Americans to experience the titillation of detailed accounts of people who transgressed the boundaries of social propriety, but who were then punished (Von Lampe, 2003).
Sharp maintains that CostelloĂs testimony was the high point of the hearings and she notes that news media around the country carried it live on radio and television. But Costello would only agree to testify if his face was not shown on television. Thus, the cameras focused instead on his ˘massive, calloused hands÷ as he testified in what Sharp calls a very ˘witty monologue.÷ Thus, Sharp argues that thirty million Americans formed their first impressions of the Italian mafia from the mysteriousness of CostelloĂs facelessness, the olive-colored skin of his hands, the ethnicity of his name, and his heavy Italian accent (Sharp).