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Omerta - the Mafia's bloody wall of silence

[January 2023]

Avatars representing Mafia Members comprising the logo of mademanmafia.com with zippers on their lips to represent Omerta - the vow of silence

What is The Omertà code?

The Omertà code is a code of silence that is commonly associated with the mafia and other organized crime groups. The code is based on the principle of "omertà," which means "manliness" or "honor" in Sicilian. The code is used to protect the secrecy of the mafia and its members, and it is considered a sacred tradition among many organized crime groups.



Unwritten rules


The Omertà code is a set of unwritten rules that govern the behavior of members of the mafia. The code is widely assumed to prohibit members from discussing the organization or its activities with outsiders. This includes not talking to law enforcement or cooperating with investigations into the activities of the mafia. In addition, the code prohibits members from testifying against other members in court.


Enforcement


The Omertà code is often enforced through violence and intimidation. Those who violate the code may be subjected to physical harm or even death. This is done to ensure that the secrecy and power of the organization are maintained. Being an unwritten code, it can be difficult to determine whether any rules have been broken. Writing in "Wiseguy" Henry Hill asserted that crossing anybody could get you killed unless you were afforded the honor of being a made man. Mobsters were killed mostly for financial reasons. It was sometimes easier to kill a guy than give him his cut.


Enforcement of the Omertà code is more clear-cut when it comes to dealing with police. Paying the cops off was a necessary part of life for a Mafioso, but informing or even being thought be talking to them could get a mobster killed. Because the code isn't defined anywhere, it provides degree of protection against law-enforcement infiltration. Police informants had a harder time infiltrating, while those who were brought up in and around the mafia had an innate sense of what not to do if they wanted to stay alive.



Breaking the Code


Much of what we know about the inner workings of the Mafia is as a result of ex-members that have broken their vow of silence and testified in court. The wellbeing of these turncoats was a game of Cat & Mouse between Cosa Nostra and law enforcement. The price of their testimony could be great, or their disappearance could collapse high-profile cases.


Role of Omertà in online Mafia games


The Omertà code is an important aspect of many mafia-themed browser games. In these games, players take on the role of a member of the mafia and must follow the code in order to advance in the game. Players must complete missions, gain respect from other players, and maintain the secrecy of the organization. Players have been outcast, discredited, and attacked for leaking secrets in Made Man Mafia.


Did Omertà contribute to the downfall of the Mafia?


Since the 1990's organized crime has migrated from occupying headlines and front pages to occupying our TV screens. Mob killings are far less common these days, and when Mafia trials make the news, the defendants are usually in their 70s or older. Now, there's no Dapper Don, and no bloody turf wars. John Gotti's former underboss, Sammy Gravano, claims that his boss's public profile did more damage to Cosa Nostra than ten informants could. There can be no doubt that Mafia took a step back into the shadows.




News archive footage in the aftermath of Paul Castellano's murder.

So what happened?


In short - things got too hot. There are many other factors that we'll explore later. Omertà afforded Mafiosi an infallible rationale to take out rivals. As we established earlier, killings more regularly occurred for financial reasons. The overuse of this as a smokescreen led to a surge in mob killings. Organized crime is supposed to work in the shadows, and it seems mobsters realized the spotlight was bad for business. Excommunication overtook murder as the primary enforcement of the Omertà code.



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