The interesting sociological question of the day, from CNN (via Joe Gandelman at TMV): Why do the people in this surveillance video act so indifferently to the murder of a man in broad daylight in this Italian town? The clip has scandalized the rest of Italy, where people are treating this as their version of the Kitty Genovese case, but there are a couple of important differences which CNN’s report doesn’t note, although Joe does (video has disturbing content):
Joe compares this to the case of 20 teenagers standing by while a girl got gang-raped in Richmond, which is actually a lot more analogous to the Genovese case than this one, as there are different dynamics at play in the Italian case. The key difference is that the victim of this hit was no innocent bystander, but a “little boss” in the local crime syndicate. Just as in American communities with heavy organized-crime infiltration, the locals know who’s connected and who isn’t. Violence within the syndicate will naturally be seen as the price people pay for belonging in the first place, and the collective victims of the syndicate are not about to risk their lives to save the crooks, or to apprehend the button man once he finishes his work. That may not be a particularly courageous impulse, but it’s certainly understandable.
However, the video of the hit may help to inspire more activism from the victims in order to isolate and destroy the crime syndicates that produces so much violence and misery. There is nothing romantic about the Mafia or its close cousins, here in the US, in Italy, or anywhere else. They’re nothing more than thieves’ guilds, existing for the protection of robbery and corruption. If this can produce the necessary outrage to dismantle one or more of them, then I wish the Italian prosecutors all the best in forcing their citizens to confront it.