A gangster is a criminal who is, or at some point almost invariably becomes, a member of a persistent violent crime|violent Organized crime|crime organization, such as a gang. As an adjective it can be used as an unflattering depiction of the violent and devious methods commonly used by mobsters, and the derived form gangsterism implies such methods as practice or habit. The term gangster is most commonly used in reference to members of the criminal organizations associated with the United States|American offshoot of the Italy|Italian Cosa Nostra, the Mafia (sometimes called the Mob), and the Prohibition in the United States|American prohibition, such as the Chicago Outfit and the Five Families, and individuals such as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.
Gangsters are typically organized criminals who are actively engaged in crime as a group activity or enterprise for power, pleasure, or profit. The visibility of activities of gangsters can range from the low-level such as Illegal drug trade|drug-trafficking or Protection racket|protectionism, which are prone to be "under the radar", to the in-your-face spectacular, such as the United Kingdom|UK's multi-million Brinks Mat robbery. Gangsters often run their operations as businesses insofar as they offer a "product" or "service", albeit an illegal one, or, as is sometimes the case, a legitimate business operating as a front for criminal activity.
Some gangsters, sometimes called thugs, engage in extortion, intimidation, and bribery to wield influence over Trade union|labor unions. They are also known for attempting to manipulate the decisions of civil institutions, such as court cases and Election|political elections.
Gangsters are sometimes romanticized in popular culture in films such as The Godfather series and shows like The Sopranos. In the controversial gangsta rap genre of music the term "gangster" is associated with having power and being street smart, being admirable. As a result of this the term "gangster" is sometimes used (probably somewhat facetiously) as a compliment.
Some well known gangsters include Ma Barker, Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Johnny Dio, John Gotti, Bugs Moran, Bernardo Provenzano, and Bugsy Siegel.
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