Time Essay: THE AGE OF TOUCHINESS

A proper image is a matter of civil rights.

—P. Vincent Landi Italian-American spokesman

TO history's roster of metaphysicians must now be added the Italian-American Civil Rights League. By a bloodless coup—metaphysics instead of machine guns—the league recently declared: The Mafia doesn't exist. In effect, the league lined Cosa Nostra up against the wall and stared right through it.

The simplicity, the purity of the idea has proven irresistible. After being picketed and besieged by mail, the Justice Department became the league's first convert. Attorney General John Mitchell agreed to deport the Mafia—as a...

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