August 6, 2007


Omerta v1.0

noun 1886

1. A Mafia code of honour which demands absolute loyalty to the organization and silence about its activities, esp. refusal to give evidence of criminal activity to the police.

The code of Omerta says: ‘Evidence is good so long as it does not injure your neighbour. 1887 Littell's Living Age 17 Dec. 678/2
2. In extended use: a code of silence, esp. about clandestine or criminal activity; a refusal to talk openly about something. OED Online.



From “Campaign Chic: Not Too Cool; Never Ever Hot” by Guy Trebay
The New York Times, "Fashion and Style," July 22, 2007.
[L]eaks from inside the campaign [alleged] that [SenatorJohn] McCain thought his handlers were dressing him up as a metrosexual [2] . . .
Political blogs like the Stump and the Swamp, and gossipier ones like Radar, had a field day with Mr. McCain’s so-called “gay sweater,” a V-neck worn over a T-shirt. . . .
“You neither want to be seen as somebody who cares too much about appearance or too little,” said Jay Fielden, the editor of Men’s Vogue. . . . . There’s a strict code that’s kind of understood, but that you know these guys can’t talk about,” said Mr. Fielden, referring to sartorial guidelines whose very existence is subject to Beltway [2] omerta. “If you get into a situation like McCain did, it ends up seeming like you’re being dressed by your mother. It’s not very macho.”
[1] metrosexual: A man (esp. a heterosexual man) whose lifestyle, spending habits and concern for personal appearance are likened to those considered typical of a fashionable, urban, homosexual man.—OED: Draft Entry, 2005.
[2] the Beltway: Interstate 495 (abbreviated I-495) is a freeway-class interstate highway which circles Washington, D.C. and its inner suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. I-495 is widely known as the Capital Beltway or simply the Beltway, especially when the context of Washington, D.C. is clear. It is the basis of the phrase "inside the Beltway", used when referring to issues dealing with American government and politics.—Wikipedia
The compact catchphrase "Beltway omerta" expects the reader to be familiar with the jargon Mafia practices and of current American national politics.



A book review from Buzzflash Reviews:
Unfit Commander: Texans for Truth Take On George W. Bush. By Glenn W. Smith. New York: ReganBooks, October 11, 2004.
[An unsigned review.]
Talk about a timely book that was printed a year ago! The nomination of Harriet Miers, Bush's latest consigliore, is not only a testament to how the Busheviks are organized along the lines of the Mafia, which is to say that Omerta takes precedence over any claim to competence, or in this case even any prior experience as a judge.

What makes this book -- which was a belated counter-attempt to counter the lies of the Rove-orchestrated "Swift Boat Liars" in the last election -- so immediately relevant is that Miers was paid by the Bush campaign when he was Governor of Texas to "look over" his National Guard record for "trouble spots." Some claim that she was even party to "eliminating" troublesome portions of the record.

But the biggest accusation was that she used a Texas state position to basically provide "hush money" to a man who could verify that George was given preference for a position in the Texas Air National Guard.
Miers has proven herself a total Bush loyalist and crony. She meets Bush's only requirement in a candidate for any position: complete and uncompromising loyalty to Bush and the ruling Republican junta.



The OED suggests two uncertain lines of derivation:
1. as an alteration of Spanish hombredad manliness, which came from hombre man.

2. Or, in the OED’s view, less likely, as a regional variant of Italian umiltà humility n. (with allusion to the Mafia code which enjoins submission of the group to the leader as well as silence on all Mafia concerns).


Omerta carries a rich array of connotations, a few of which include
  • loyalty,
  • strength of character (sometimes translated into “manliness”),
  • secrecy,
  • strong political power,
  • vulnerability to established law enforcement
  • extremism,
  • corruption.
These connotations are apparent among the OED's sample sentences for omerta:

The code of Omerta says: ‘Evidence is good so long as it does not injure your neighbour.’1887 Littell's Living Age

There is..the belief that it is unmanly to tell anything about a fellow countryman which could get him into trouble. It is called ‘Omerta’ in the Sicilian tongue, which means manliness.1909 Evening Sun (N.Y.)

They [the Mafia] have a law... It's called the Omerta. It's an unwritten law a code of conduct, really.1965 J. WAINWRIGHT
An island [Sardinia] where omerta is stronger than democracy. 1968 Listener

The protection program was formally established after passage of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 to hasten the breakdown of omertà, the underworld code of silence.1977 Time (Atlantic ed.)

Divorced from certain values comradeship degenerates into omerta, the Mafia code of unconditional loyalty with no questions asked.1991 Sunday Tel.

Lansdale's omerta about his work for the CIA.1975 Jrnl. Asian Stud.

They [extreme leftists] cover the terrorists... They even serve as couriers for them... There is a certain omerta surrounding terrorism.1978 Washington Post

Corruption remains a grave problem in the Met, as does a deeper form of corruption, the omertà which seals all lips.1987 Sunday Tel.

The company devoted the whole evening of live television to breaking what it describes as the ‘omertà’ surrounding mad cow disease.2000 Daily Tel


No comments:

Post a Comment