How the internet can break an impenetrable edifice

It turns out that even the Mafia is being "transformed" by the internet.
PALERMO, Sicily (Jan. 13) - When it came down to business, Cosa Nostra could always count on fear. No more. In a rebellion shaking the Sicilian Mafia to its centuries-old roots, businesses are joining forces in refusing to submit to demands for protection money called "pizzo."

And they're getting away with it, threatening to sap an already weakened crime syndicate of one of its steadiest sources of revenue. The Mafia has a history of bouncing back from defeat, but this time it is up against something entirely new: a Web site where businessmen are finding safety in numbers to say no to the mob.

At the same time, businessmen ranging from neighborhood shopkeepers to industrialists are being emboldened by arrests of fugitive bosses, and the discovery in raids of meticulous Mafia bookkeeping on who paid the "pizzo" and how much.

"This rebellion goes to the heart of the Mafia," said Palermo prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia, who has investigated extortion cases for years. "If it works, we will have a great advantage in the fight against the Mafia."

These latest gains build on other successes in the fight to break Cosa Nostra's stranglehold on Sicily. In the last two decades, the syndicate has been battered by testimony from turncoats, who helped send hundreds of mobsters to prison in the late 1980s, and a fierce state crackdown a decade later after bombs killed two Palermo anti-Mafia prosecutors.

The number of rebels on the Web site is still tiny compared to Palermo's businesses overall, but their movement has helped to chip away at the Mafia's psychological hold on Sicilians - long conditioned to believe that defiance would bring ruin or a death sentence. And any consistent crumbling of that culture of fear could ultimately lead to Cosa Nostra's undoing.
The concept is different, but I think that the fear which held much of Catholicism in place -- the mystique of their authority -- is likewise being dissipated by people who are no longer dependent largely on their parish priests to get a handle on what their Church really teaches.

That's because so much of Catholic "authority" -- especially the papacy -- has been "built on sand." The internet -- representing a flood of information, including a way of disseminating more accurate information about the papacy's history -- is going to erode away the foundations of that house built on sand.

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