Organized crime is one of the most popular topics of media attention within the crime genre, providing a plethora of fictional representations and factual explanations for popular consumption. Its media presence has not only entertained the public but also interacted with and help form policy responses by governments and law enforcement agencies. Beset by ambiguous definitions and typically operating in a clandestine manner, organized crime has become subject to various forms of mythologizing, romanticized and exaggerated, thrilling and terrifying, emerging as a phenomenon riddled with contradictions yet made consistently attractive by the mystique that dominates media narratives. Blurring the line between fact and fiction as these narratives often do, they can serve or undermine attempts to conceptualize and control organized crime, and in some cases, modify the behavior of criminals themselves.
The mythologizing of organized crime has been one of the major challenges for criminologists researching the topic. Unlike many other forms of crime, gaining access to subjects involved in this surreptitious world is especially difficult for academics, consequently conferring exaggerated and misleading media and official representations of organized crime greater currency. Further, with the ostensible explosion of global crime networks, shaped by diverse languages, cultures, and ideologies, gaining a more accurate understanding of the nature of and threat posed by organized crime has become even more problematic. In examining the production and content of the dominant myths around organized crime, the article looks at the impact of media and official representations of these mythologies and how they have helped to preserve the political, social, and economic status quo.