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Yellow Kid Weil – Criminal Ethics

June 4, 2014

Yellow Kid Weil was a famous con artist in Chicago, in the mid-20th century. Here he is reflecting on the other criminal class.

“The attitude of the baser sort of criminal toward me is very interesting,” he said. “They have always either shunned or behaved with extreme coldness to me. I never will forget a discussion I once had with a second-story man about our respective relations to our victims. He thought me guilty of the highest immorality. Worst of all, in his eyes, was the fact that I openly showed myself to dupes in the light of day. ‘Why,’ he said to me with an indescribable demeanor, ‘you go right up to them. They see your face!‘ This seemed to him the worst of all deceits. Such is their scheme of ethics,” said the Kid. “In their view, you should sneak up on people to pick their pockets, or break and enter to burglarize their houses, but to look them in the eyes, gain their confidence, that is impure.”

(as reported by Saul Bellow, in The Reporter, 6 September 1956, and reprinted in It All Adds Up)

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