1. Is the Mystery Man with Twenty-One faces a great criminal? Why or why not?
Great criminals are those who threaten the laws of a sovereign. Laws only serve as vulnerable limitations, to which criminals seek to surpass. German Philosopher Walter Benjamin suggests that the law breaking tendencies of criminals create admiration and envy amongst the public. In the case of the mystery man with twenty faces, the popularity their crimes garnered from the media and subsequent praise from the public suggests the group to be great criminals. This admiration from the public suggests a social acceptance and vicarious envy to the criminal that succeeded in breaking the crime, and for the most part got away with it. Through the lens of Walter Benjamin and Marilyn Ivy, one can further denote whether the mystery man with twenty-one faces was really a great criminal.
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Ivy further asserts that “mass media and crime have a relationship that is more than incidental, after all…. If crimes normally depend for their success on a certain degree of obscurity-on what resists being found out and thus representable in the media-that obscurity also becomes the narrative mystery that the media feel compelled to enlighten”(Ivy 12). The relationship between a criminal and the media is crucial. It is the media’s job to dig to find the truth, while the criminal tries hard to not be caught and revealed.
Ivy also posits the importance and interdependence of crime to the success capitalistism. Ivy suggests that though stability allows for investments, “without the element of risk, of failure and danger, there can be no profit, as the entire complex of investment and profit that underpins capitalism relies on risk for its realization. Crime, as a daily counterpart to market risk, is similarly central to bourgeois stability.” (Ivy 12) The acclamation of crime in society is undoubtable. The great criminal realizes this importance and capitalizes on this. “One role of mass media is to keep people perpetually aware of the possibilities of risk. What resists being mass mediated-crime thus forms the supplementary foundation of media institutions themselves. Capitalism and crime form a linked pair that recurs throughout…”(Ivy 12-13). The great criminal takes advantage of this interdependence and succeeds only until they are caught.
The mystery man group succeeded in their mission. They were successful in their letters to blackmail, threaten, and slander their victims all without being caught. The inability for the state to catch them proved them to be great criminals. It is crucial for the state to keep situations like these from happening. The more the citizenry are exposed to the flaws in law enforcement, the more likely someone is to break them and the rate of crime increases. However, for those criminals to be considered “great” they would have to be very strategic and savvy in succeeding in a big mission, while not getting caught.