THE AMERICAN WAY OF CRIME by Frank & John Gerassi Browning


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In this fat compendium of wrongdoing from Massachusetts Bay Colony to Watergate--including everything from witchcraft to homicidal sales of unsafe Ford Pintos--Browning and Gerassi argue that crime in America seems pervasive because powerful elites shout ""crime"" to mask social problems (such as poverty and racism) and to suppress rebellion and dissent. This practice, they maintain, has produced in a country chiefly devoted to the fast buck, a ""sixth estate"" (the fifth is intelligence agencies and the military) of professional organized crime, now headed not so much by mobsters or ""families"" as by scheming corporations and corrupt political parties. Profiteering and piracy, slave repression, vigilante ""justice,"" bootlegging, street gangs, and gangsters are all part of this history. In part Browning and Gerassi make their case simply by redefining as criminals the likes of Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Henry Ford--and identifying as their victims blacks, Indians, Chinese, working stiffs, and the poor in general. Journalists Browning and Gerassi, however, are at their best explaining how a certain Washington lobbyist wound up in the Potomac or whodunit last year to the average American oil consumer; the historical sections are questionable at best, the documentation very often in error. And a certain naivetÉ leads to ideological overkill; thus, industrialist Vanderbilt is ""an opinionated, arrogant, secretive, superstitious egomaniac"" while the murderous Wild Bunch of outlaws are ""easygoing, fun-loving, generous, expert horsemen"" who never ""squealed on a friend."" Still there are lots of good stories here, from the Scopes Trial to the Black Sox Scandal to Who's Got the Jimmy Hoffa?, and all under an umbrella--law and order as a tool of the powerful to maintain power--that's not to be summarily dismissed.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam