Mafia no match for new media

Sicilian businesses are gaining the courage to refuse Mafia demands for protection money called "pizzo."

Sicilian businesses are gaining the courage to refuse Mafia demands for protection money called “pizzo.” According to an AP story via Wired, businesses are joining forces on a Web site - unfamiliar territory for the Cosa Nostra - called “Addiopizzo” (Goodbye Pizzo). Youths looking to start a pub launched a campaign in 2004; they plastered flyers around Palermo reading, "An ENTIRE PEOPLE WHO PAYS THE PIZZO IS A PEOPLE WITHOUT DIGNITY,” and brought the campaign online where it resonated with frustrated business owners, ranging from shopkeepers to industrialists.

The Mafia's weakened state, including arrests of fugitive bosses and “pizzo” bookkeeping records found in raids, has contributed to site members' courage.

Confindustria, the industrialists' politically influential lobby, has also helped the movement with threats to expel members who pay the pizzo, to the point where some involved say that the risk to pay is greater than not to pay.

Only 230 businesses are on the site list, but a similar group sprouted up in Catania, Sicily's second-largest city. The story says the power of the campaign is evidence of consistent crumbling of the “psychological hold on Sicilians” and the culture of fear that could lead to the Cosa Nostra's undoing.

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