Memo To: Lynne Cheney
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Soprano Rape Scene
I’d thought of you, Lynne, not long after my wife Patricia and I switched off our television set in the middle of the rape scene in last Sunday’s HBO episode of The Sopranos. Actually, I’d also thought of Tipper Gore, since both of you have been so involved over the years in trying to clean up the filth in our entertainment industry. But I’d never met Mrs. Gore and I’ve known you for a long time. It was nice to run into you in January when I stopped by to say hello to Dick, before the inaugural. (I now would now have to refer to him as “the Vice President.”) I’d e-mailed him a copy of my Monday memo to Home Box Office, when I told how disgusted my wife was with the most graphic rape scene we had ever witnessed in a theater or in our living room that we decided to cancel the HBO subscription we have had since HBO began.
In case you did not see the memo, I’ll append it below, but this memo to you was inspired by one of my website browsers who e-mailed me Monday, asking “What does this have to do with economics?” You may find this hard to believe, Lynne, but it was an angry Patricia who startled me on Sunday, after we decided to cancel HBO, who said: “This is what we get for not having a gold standard!” I thought she was kidding me, but she said she was serious: “There are no standards any more, for anything. Everything is relative, nothing is absolute, nothing is wrong anymore because there is no anchor to what is right, for our money or for anything else.”
This is actually a point I have been making for almost 30 years, since President Nixon cut the link between our paper dollar and gold. Without an anchor to something real, the dollar has inflated and deflated and inflated and deflated and inflated and deflated again. In my book, The Way the World Works, I recalled the civil war that followed the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., and the situation that his adopted son, Augustus, encountered 16 years later. According to Will and Ariel Durant, “Rome was full of men who had lost their economic footing and their moral stability: soldiers who had tasted adventure and had learned to kill; citizens who had seen their savings consumed in the taxes and inflation of war and waited vacuously for some returning tide to lift them back to affluence; women dizzy with freedom, multiplying divorces, abortions and adulteries.” The Durants wrote that in 1944 in the third volume, Caesar and Christ, of their History of Civilization. The golden age of the Roman Empire was built on the tax and monetary reforms that had been designed by Julius and carried out by his son: “He restored the stability of the currency by basing it on gold and issuing a golden aureus, equivalent in purchasing power to the British pound sterling in the nineteenth century.”
History also tells us, Lynne, that the restoration of a gold dollar after the Civil War in the United States was led by Christian evangelicals. They were the quickest to see the social pathologies that resulted from a greenback dollar that changed its value from one day to the next, broke the links between effort and reward, and rewarded currency speculators at the expense of work and saving. If I were you, I’d seriously look into the issue, and discuss it with the nation’s religious leaders. I’ve practically exhausted the other avenues toward a monetary standard. The nation’s bankers seem to enjoy being able to manipulate money, because they can do it profitably, especially when they have inside information from their friends at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Pat Robertson, for example, is a longtime champion of a gold dollar. Andrew Young, who was in Congress when Nixon went off gold, has argued that the most serious problems of the black family began with that decision. When living standards fell in the inflation that followed, the black folks at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid were crushed. Andy Young is now the a leader with the National Council of Churches. Even before Nixon went off gold, the late Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam in 1966 warned against leaving the gold standard, for all these reasons. Another advocate of a return to gold, believe it or not, is his successor, Louis Farrakhan. I’ve spent many hours with him discussing the role of an undefined national money in the social pathologies that afflict not only the United States, the only remaining superpower, but are at the root of so much poverty and despair throughout the world. You can start the project, Lynne, by calling Jack and Joanne Kemp, who understand the problem about as well as Patricia and I do. Maybe we will have to thank the Sopranos for pushing us over the edge, thereby inspiring this memo to you. A reform has to start somewhere.
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To Home Box Office:
For as long as I live, I will never forget the rape scene in last night’s episode of The Sopranos. It was the ugliest, most disgusting, graphic and unnecessary rape scene I have ever seen. It was all the more repulsive because I knew tens of millions of American families had been suckered into watching the show and were witnessing that scene -- many with their teenage children at the same time my wife Patricia and I were. It was like our whole national family witnessing the rape of a woman we had come to know and respect, right on our living room floor, and we could do nothing about it. Before the scene had completely unfolded, Patricia gagged, got up from her chair and announced that she would never watch another Soprano episode and asked if I would mind if she canceled our HBO subscription -- which your records will show we have had since day one. Our Sunday evening was wrecked and we sat shaking with anger and emotion, unable to shake off the revulsion we felt.
How dismayed we are with you for permitting this program to air with this scene. All we can think of is that David Chase, the show’s creator, wanted to employ a dramatic device to set up the revenge of the rape of his female psychiatrist by Tony Soprano. What Chase did was cheap and repulsive, and it stuns me that the cast would go along with it, especially Lorraine Bracco, who had to submit to the rape. This was so realistic that I wonder if the producers asked that the rape actually be carried out in order to achieve greatest effect. Will we next see a snuff scene, with a live actor murdered on the spot? In all my 65 years, Mr. and Mrs. HBO, I’ve witnessed a great many offensive scenes on film and on stage, but this is as rock bottom as it gets. David Chase may insist he wanted to shock, for dramatic effect, but that is no excuse for you allowing him to get away with it. As the national statistics climb this year for forcible rape, you can take partial credit for each and every one of them.