Studs Terkel appears on an October 1995 episode of Common Ground. Terkel is interviewed by Monroe Anderson. Interview topics include: the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the death penalty, race relations in America, and Terkel's newest book entitled Coming of Age.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a title screen and intro segment.
00:28Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Monroe Anderson as he introduces Studs Terkel. Terkel, seated in his chair, calmly waits for the interview to begin.
00:53Copy video clip URL Anderson asks Terkel about his thoughts on the O.J. Simpson trial and his Simpson’s acquittal. Terkel looks off to the side in frustration and exclaims, “Oh God!” He then addresses what he believes to be a double standard with the judicial system. “If O.J. were poor and black, and for that matter poor and white, but certainly if you’re poor and black and anonymous and unknown, he would be sitting in death row this evening. … You have never heard of any celebrated rich person ever going to the gallows, to the electric chair, or getting a lethal injection. Never. Name one, and you can’t. You have heard and read of hundreds of poor guys, poor women, black and white, primarily black, who have gone to the chair, and I’m saying this double standard is in violation of all the democratic principles. We also know that capital punishment does not deter capital crimes. I think anybody who says, ‘I’m for capital punishment because it’s the right thing to do,’ that person to me is a three dollar bill.”
02:37Copy video clip URL Anderson then retorts by bringing up the argument that O.J. committed the crime as a crime of passion. Terkel immediately states that that argument doesn’t matter and that the case is proof that “capital punishment is as phony as a three dollar bill.” Terkel goes on to label capital punishment as official murder.
04:11Copy video clip URL Anderson plays the role of the devil’s advocate and gives Terkel an alternative premise on a case like the O.J. Simpson trial. Terkel then replies to Anderson, “I can’t answer your question because I can’t take it seriously.” Terkel goes on to state that there is a “double tier system of justice.”
06:41Copy video clip URL Anderson brings up the subject of race in the O.J. Simpson trial. He states that many blacks believed that he did not commit the crime, while many whites believed that he got away with murder. Terkel replies to that observation by talking about the black experience with the justice system and how it has contributed to the view that the justice system isn’t just. Anderson talks about the involvement of Mark Ferman in the O.J. Simpson trial. Terkel goes on to talk about the case in a little more detail.
10:25Copy video clip URL Cut to a break. There is a short clip of a scene from the movie Eight Men Out, which featured Terkel.
11:20Copy video clip URL Anderson welcomes the viewing audience back to the show and refers to Terkel as an icon. Terkel jokingly questions the notion of himself being an icon. Anderson asks Terkel about his thought that America suffers from a “national Alzheimer’s Disease.” Terkel talks about the lack of a sense of history among many younger Americans and about his newest book, Coming of Age. Terkel also talks a little bit about the Great Depression.
12:56Copy video clip URL Anderson asks Terkel if many Americans are victims of their own success. Terkel then cites one of his interviews with John Kenneth Galbraith from Coming Of Age about the transfer over to conservatism. Terkel then goes on to talk about the labor movement. He cites the Haymarket Affair as an important touchstone in labor history.
14:33Copy video clip URL Anderson then talks about the difference between the thirties and the nineties, specifically citing the large amount of information available in the nineties. Terkel responds, “It might be information, but it’s not necessarily truth. There’s a difference between fact and truth, you see.” Terkel talks about the lack of “personal touch” in American society. He also talks of his ineptitude with computers.
17:07Copy video clip URL Anderson asks Terkel about the title of his newest book, Coming Of Age. Terkel begins by talking about the irony of his book title. He also talks about some the bigger events of the twentieth century. Terkel speaks of the notion of “self-censorship” in the U.S. as well. They then cut to another break.
20:21Copy video clip URL Anderson asks Terkel about the lack of a historical memory among many young Americans as the credits for the program roll. Terkel goes into great detail about why the younger generation lacks a strong sense of history before being cut off by the end of the tape.
21:53Copy video clip URL Tape ends.