Books. “McMafia”

As a person involved in highly organised criminal activity (I work for the government, if you didn’t know; thus I live off the protection racket you pay ie. taxes), I am deeply interested in how the other, illegal, kind of mafia works.

That’s why a while ago I picked up a book “McMafia. Seriously organised crime” by Misha Glenny.  I honestly recommend it to everyone interested in learning how the things are and why they are the way they are. Reasons?

A) Very broad scope of research – both in terms of geography (British Columbia, South Africa, Russia, Israel, India…) and of types of crimes covered (from Nigerian e-mail scams to human trafficking, drug-dealing and protection rackets).

B) It tries to provide the background behind the organised crime’s spectacular rise in the last two decades. Assesses the impact of such factors as globalization, deregulation of financial market, fall of the communism and apartheid regime, American drug policy… Shows not only how organised crime rose, but why it basically had to rise.

C) Doesn’t try to romanticize nor demonize the criminals. Doesn’t focus on the street level “tough guys” nor smart people who “cheat the system”. It just tells some stories with a number of likeable and a greater number of unlikeable people in them.

D) (the most important point IMO) Stresses the responsiblity and complacency of your average, “law-abiding”, Western consumer for whose needs a large chunk of criminal activity caters. It’s not only blokes sniffing up coke or visiting hookers (btw, Glenny rightly points out that the latter caries much less stigma than it used to) that are financing really mean guys doing really horrible stuff. In fact, people buying pirated DVDs contribute as well, and there’re chances that your cellphone has helped finance the genocidal war  in Congo.

Just read it. It saved me from falling asleep at the Schiphol airport at 4.40 AM

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  • eskandarj  On May 6, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Looks interesting! Does it discuss the Korean mafia or the Chinese triads at all? My friend and I were convinced that the Chinese mafia ran this yogurt place in LA, and I’d like to investigate our theory further. :D

    • peterlin  On May 6, 2009 at 7:57 pm

      Korean – no. Japanese and Chinese – yes, though I haven’t got to that yet. Did they a have a fishtank in that yoghurt place? That’d be a tell-tale sign :)
      The book is a bit random and sketchy, yet not incoherrent. Very good reporting with elements of socioeconomic analysis. Judging by the coverage of things I have some idea about (Russian crimeworld), the author knows his facts in detail.

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