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Italian Mafia

The hearings also offered American television and print media a national audience for its shaping of the dramatic testimony, the most dramatic of which was the testimony of star witness Frank Costello. Costello was the 'boss' of the Luciano-Genovese crime family of New York City. Through his testimony, the Kefauver Committee established to the viewing audience that first- and second-generation Italian immigrants did in fact control a nationwide network of organized crime (Sharp). But Sharp argues that even more dramatic than Costello's testimony û and far more pertinent to the way in which the media would shape images of Italian immigrants thereafter û was the way in which Costello testified.

Sharp maintains that Costello's 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 Costello's facelessness, the olive-colored skin of his hands, the ethnicity of his name, and his heavy Italian accent (Sharp). In fact, she argues that this combination of media sounds and images 'calcified him as a stereotype of Mafioso' (Sharp). From that moment on, America would always associate organized crime with Italians.

Sharp's interpretation of the affect of the Kefauver hearings on media images of Italian immigrants is echoed by numerous other researchers. In particular, she notes that media expert Dwight Smith also links the Kefauver hearings to an avalanche of television and print reports during the 1950s that characterized membership in the mafia primarily according to ethnicity, style and clothing (Sharp). The televiso...

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Italian Mafia. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:50, August 17, 2017, from
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