When Your Father Is The Mafia


The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s conversation with Michael Franzese on following in his father’s footsteps and his former involvement in the mafia.

Start time: 00:00

Jordan: When you look at the situation now, because you are a changed man and we will get into that, you talked about viewing law enforcement as an enemy and an enemy worth continually battling against, even at personal cost and not blaming your father. You said you loved your father, and that he was a good father to you. When you look back on it now, I mean, obviously your father — and correct me at any point if I have this wrong — but obviously your father was engaged in widespread criminal activity. Why was that not an issue when you were young? Why do you think that his guilt on that front was more or less invisible to you? And how do you view his participation in these activities and his hand in establishing his destiny, even if he was framed on those charges? How do you view that now?

Michael: Well, totally different. You know, I have had many defining moments in my life, but when I stepped away from that life and walked away, I had a lot of trouble, Jordan. I mean, there was a contract on my life because you can’t walk away from that life. And everybody thought the next step for me would be to be a cooperating witness, because that’s what happens normally. People don’t just walk away. So I was in prison at the time and — you know, we can get into that, how that happened — but the law enforcement, the FBI, came into the prison and said, there’s a contract on your life. You’re a dead man anyway. Cooperate with us. And they said, your father went along with the contract; we got word from our informants.

Now, I understood that, you know. I understood that because sometimes in that life, if you proposed somebody and that person becomes an informant, you could be held responsible. In my case, probably not with my dad because of his reputation there, but it was possible. So I understood what he was doing. It hurt a little bit, but it didn’t bother me that much because I understood the life well. And I said, these are some of the consequences I’m going to face. I don’t believe my father would ever put a gun to my head, but he might have kept quiet, you know, and just [said], well, hey, my son violated the rules.

But it was really later on that I had a conversation with him, and this was many years later, after I walked away. It was probably, maybe 10 or 12 years ago. I visited him in prison on his last violation and I said, you know, Dad, our family’s destroyed. I mean, my mother, 33 years without a husband, at the end of her life — she died in 2012 — her relationship with my dad can only be described as ugly because she blamed him for everything that went wrong. What went wrong? I had a sister, 27-years-old, died of an overdose of drugs. My brother, 25 years a drug addict. I can’t even begin to tell you what he put the family through and me personally trying to keep him alive on the street. Another younger sister, you know, 41-years-old, she died of cancer, but she was never mentally stable.

And I said, you know, Dad, you got to claim responsibility. For what? You destroyed our family. Because he was asking me, you know, you walked away — why did you do this? And I said, because I don’t want to put my family through what we went through. And, you know, he looked at me and he said, well none of this was my fault. I said, what do you mean by that? He said, well I was framed on this case. And I said, Dad, you weren’t framed because you were a doctor, a lawyer, or a priest; you were framed because of who we were. I said, you got to come to terms with that because eventually you were going to go down. He wouldn’t accept responsibility.

Jordan: So that is it. That is interesting. Let’s talk about that a little bit because that is extremely interesting. You might think that given that he had lived an exceptional criminal life that he would have been willing, in some sense, to accept the guilt that would be part and parcel of that. I mean, if you engage in criminal activities, then you are doing criminal things. And obviously that is wrong in some sense, or it would not be called criminal, and you would think that that would be part of the price you pay for whatever success and respect you might generate as a consequence of doing that — maybe whatever adventure you might have as a consequence of doing that.

But the fact that he dwelt on the narrow fact of his innocence in that regard means to me — and I think this is what you are telling me — is that he was denying his culpability. You know, you often hear that, especially the high-level criminal types, are without conscience, but that does not seem to be an appropriate description of the situation with your father, because if he was without conscience, he would have just said, well of course I was guilty and they framed me, the sons of bitches, but that is exactly what you would expect — but you know, I had it coming to me in some sense because of all the other things I did.

But you said that he was clinging to his innocence and also unwilling to take responsibility for what he had done. Do you think that is an exaggerated version of what you had to do when you stepped outside yourself, so to speak, to commit the sorts of acts that you did not regard as part and parcel of you?

Michael: I think it could be described that way, yes. You know, and I got upset with him during that meeting, too, because I said, you know, how could you not claim responsibility for any of this? I said, our family was destroyed. And he refused to do it. Now, again, I don’t know if he just couldn’t face me and say it. Maybe inwardly, I can’t look into his heart and his mind. But he was very adamant about, you know, denying it. And maybe, in some sense, I don’t know, maybe that had a carryover effect on me during my time in that life.

Because my dad did teach me one thing. He taught me a lot of things that I thought were very helpful to me. But one of the things he said is: Never admit to anything. Never. No matter what. You don’t ever admit to anything. Let them prove it. Let somebody else prove it. And I saw that as being wrong later on. But during my time in that life and growing up, I would never admit to anything. You guys want to get me? You got to get me. You know, I’m not going to help you. So that was my mentality back then.

To hear the rest of the conversation, continue by listening or watching this episode or watch more content with Dr. Jordan Peterson on DailyWire+

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.

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