This week, the arrest of Matteo Messina Denaro, the head of Cosa Nostra, was confirmed. The Sicilian mafia boss, who was 60 years old, was on the run for 30 years and was finally arrested in a private clinic in Palermo (Sicily), where he went to treat his colon cancer.
Despite what it may seem today, the mafia is still very present in many parts of the world. Something that Sammy Gravano, the former number two of the Gambino family, one of the most famous in New York City and right-hand man of boss Michael Franzese, spreads and shares on YouTube.
A “Snitch” With Many Stories To Tell
Salvatore Gravano, his real name, and nicknamed among his own as “Sammy the bull”, is one of those people who has a lot to tell. And “a lot” would be short. With 77 years behind him, the former underboss of the New York mafia uses the great reach that Youtube gives him to narrate many of his experiences with the Gambino family, in which he was second in command.
The content creator dedicates his Youtube channel to talk about experiences as varied as the kidnapping and subsequent murder of John Simone, aka Johnny Keys, who was one of the best-known gangsters in Philadelphia. “I give him a bear hug and the van door is flung open and some guys run out”he says, his voice cracking.
His success on the video platform led him to create a podcast in which he narrates his life and his experiences in the mafia family. By name “Our Thing”“our thing”, a possible reference to the name of the Sicilian mafia), the ex-gangster narrates his adventures in a series of chapters directed by James Carroll, and with music and sound by composer Angelo Palazzo.
The former mobster served as a confidant for the FBI in the 90s, a time when US federal laws became implacable with all those people belonging to criminal organizations. Despite being a “informer” of the Aited States Justice, his collaboration did not free him from jail, where he was until 2017.
A couple of years after his release from prison, host Patrick Bet-David interviewed the former mobster on his Youtube channel, Valuetainment, where he asked about his life in the New York mob. Seeing the success of the video, which has accumulated 17 million views to date, the former number two in the Gambino family decided to create his own channel on Youtube, where he currently has 529.000 subscribers.
The Success of The “Mafia Youtubers”
Gravano’s case is not unique. Whether on channels specialized in interviews with prominent people such as Valuetainment or on their own, many ex-mafiosi from different parts of the world (who also collaborated to a greater or lesser extent with Justice) use Youtube to spread their stories and make users of the platform are participants in them.
Names like Mikey Scars, John Alite, Bobby Luisi or Anthony Arillotta, former members and leaders of different mafia families, accumulate thousands of subscribers on a platform where they narrate the crimes committed by themselves or their “brothers” as if they were grandparents telling their grandchildren about their lives.
But they all have to be very careful what they say and how they say it. Youtube has very strict regulations on sensitive content (which have gotten worse in recent months), and content creators must mark their videos as “Only for adults”, or measure/censor some of their words if they don’t want Youtube to demonetize them.
Because of these complexities, Gravano’s Youtube revenue doesn’t come solely from advertising. The current content creator takes advantage of the dissemination of his videos to create a brand image (which is later used to conduct interviews with third parties), to request donations in his live streams through Youtube functions and to share his Patreon, where he gives different privileges to its patrons in exchange for a monthly payment ranging from €350 to €1650.