The Dregs of States

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_22 Nov. 14 11.04 Unlike most of my contemporaries, I simply hate the mafia. I hate everything that has to do with the mafia, including fictional representations of it in cinema, television, and video games. I am regularly forced to report ads for Mafia Wars on a certain social-networking site as 'offensive' (ads for KY Jelly, in turn, are dutifully denounced as 'irrelevant'). I hate so much as thinking about casinos, Teamsters, cocaine, construction firms, since these all invariably carry with them a further thought of the mafioso who makes them his business. I hate hearing imitations of Sicilian bosses doing their schtick (threatening to kill people in a funny accent), which are almost always imitations of Christopher Walken doing imitations of Sicilian bosses.

Most of all I hate it when earnest students of mine invoke omertà as an example of a moral code, as having a laudable principle at its core even if in its application it leads to regrettable consequences. Each time this comes up I think to myself: don't students read The Stranger anymore? Or do the 'classics' that inform their moral reasoning extend back only as far as The Godfather and Scarface (I admit I made it through the first of these, but only as a Coppola completist; I have never seen a single episode of the Sopranos, and the earliest memory I have of being repulsed by the whimsical representation of organized crime was Wise Guys, the horrid Brian de Palma film of 1986 starring Billy Crystal and Danny De Vito). I would greatly prefer to engage in a discussion about morality with a student contemplating the possibility of random, lone, unprovoked murder, than with one who thinks unquestioning group loyalty represents any sort of moral accomplishment at all. Omertà is for stunted cretins, I want to say, now get that Godfather poster off your dorm-room wall and start reading some Camus or some Nietzsche.

More here.