Sunday, June 24, 2007

Chicago Mobsters, Fraternity Pledges?

Forget about those nicknames.

So "the Clown," "the Indian," "the Breeze," "Twan" (also called "Captain Crunch") and "Little Jimmy" are now on trial at the Dirksen Federal Building. Sounds like a bunch of rascally fraternity pledges hauled into the dock for committing an overaggressive initiation prank, doesn't it?

Actually, of course, prosecutors allege that Joseph Lombardo, Paul Schiro, Frank Calabrese Sr., Anthony Doyle and James Marcello -- the real names of the above -- are ruthless killers who long presided over brutal, exploitative organized-crime activities. To me, the constant use in the media of these odd and usually unilluminating nicknames does little other than to add a little glamor, gloss and an appealingly clubby feel to the ugly business in which these men were allegedly engaged.

Media outlets that wouldn't even mention the names of Chicago street gangs for fear of giving those gangs an alluring renown think nothing of using organized-crime nicknames in a way that turns alleged mobsters into characters out of noir fiction. But they, like their alleged victims, are real people with real names. Let's use 'em.

Thanks to Eric Zorn

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