I figured these anecdotes would interest this crowd.
Mafia membership comes with a series of other attributes that taken together restrict the chances of mimicry even with respect to nonmembers. The expectation is that, for instance, a real mafioso will be of Sicilian origin, at least in Italy.
Gambetta, Diego. Codes of the Underworld (pp. 220-221). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
I believe Italians have the highest melonhead admixture in general. The French probably score higher on discrimination, but Northern Italians take the top composite score for discernment and discrimination both.
In a multiethnic society ethnic features, for instance, can be effective against phony mafiosi. If a tall blond guy with freckles and a Norwegian accent tells you that he is a mafioso, you are not likely to be convinced. Mafiosi are strictly Sicilians and want it to be that way: if they admitted Norwegian or Piedmontese men, those constraints would evaporate. By keeping their membership limited to an ethnic type with its distinctive features, they reduce the pool of potential impostors and guarantee that misrepresentation by one signal alone cannot succeed. When making a threatening phone call, saying for instance “the coffin is ready for you,” mafiosi, according to Judge Giovanni Falcone, accentuate the Sicilian accent.86 Tommaso Buscetta claims that to be Sicilian is a crucial feature in drug dealing for instance: “Colombians, Bolivians, Turks, or who else deals in drugs have to show the money to the drug carriers…whereas the Sicilians do not have to. A Sicilian arrives [at the meeting], he knows where to bring the bag or the luggage to…and he goes away without receiving any money since that will be delivered later on without doubt”87
Second rule of melonheads: honor your handshake.
“Sicilianness” seems to have a strong reputational value attached to it. An unwelcome stigma for the countless honest denizens of the island,
Is that like a moderate Muslim?
it is a bonus for the local underworld. Ethnic groups with a long common history are usually very robust because the constellation of signs that identify them is extensive. Art Spiegelman reports that, during the German occupation of Poland, his father used to travel to town by the tram. It had two cars, neither likely to welcome a Jew: “One was only Germans and officials. The second, it was only the Poles. He always went straight to the official car,” where a simple salute, “Heil Hitler,” was enough not to call attention, whereas “in the Polish car they could smell if a Polish Jew came in.” It was harder for a Polish Jew to mimic the nuanced multiple signs of a Polish gentile than the fewer superficial gestures of a pro-Nazi.88
Things that make Captain Obvious go hmm…
Oblivious to the ethnic constraint that only Chinese people are members of organized crime gangs in Hong Kong, “in December 1991 two Nigerian men appeared on the construction site of a hotel in Tsimshatsui [a Hong Kong district] . When they met the manager of the site they claimed, in English, that they were ‘triads’ and demanded protection money.”89 The manager called the police, who arrested the impostors.
The presence or lack of the expected ethnic origin assists mafiosi in discriminating the truthfulness of claims…
…Ethnic origin also helps mafiosi to distinguish themselves from organized crime groups of other Southern Italian regions, such as Neapolitan Camorristi or Calabrian ‘ndranghetisti. But in Sicily itself the advantages of ethnic distinctiveness are annulled by the fact that everybody enjoys the same ethnic features. To maintain the mafia distinction is especially important since, contrary to the belief that the mafia in Sicily has an absolute monopoly on illegal protection, there are not just local impostors to guard against but also several lesser gangs with which members of the mafia do not want to be confused.
Kind of like how it’s a felony to impersonate an FBI agent, but you can tell anybody you want that you’re a Marine or a SEAL.
In Carini there is a “nonrecognized” gang that must not be confused with the mafia family of Villagrazia di Carini.92 In Barrafranca there is a group known as “Stiddari,” which was established by former members of the mafia expelled from the organization.93 This group has branches in the Agrigento and Caltanissetta areas. In Catania the mafia family is only a group among others, which are designated by their founders’ nicknames, such as Mussu di ficurindia, Carcagnusi, Puntina, and Malpassoti. No wonder that Antonino Calderone sternly stated: “It is important to make a distinction between the true mafiosi, those who belong to Cosa Nostra, and the others.”94 Where “Sicilianness” does not suffice, other means must be used.
Gambetta, Diego. Codes of the Underworld (pp. 221-222). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
The nice thing about stationary bandits is, even if we assume they’re 100% clinical psychopaths lacking the co-ethnic empathy predicted by the Selfish Gene, odds are they won’t wake up tomorrow and decide to depopulate their revenue source. I hear the Sicilians aren’t too keen on the whole migrant invasion thing, whereas the English figure it’s impolite to mention it.