Ken Burns

  • Aired:  09/28/11
  •  | Views: 22,017

Ken Burns discusses the unforeseen consequences of Prohibition and the political and economic shifts that led to its end. (6:24)

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS A NEW

THREE-PART DOCUMENTARY ABOUT

PROHIBITION.

INSTEAD OF INTERVIEWING HIM, WE

WILL PAN SLOWLY ACROSS HIS FACE

WHILE I PLAY A MOURNFUL FLUTE.

PLEASE WELCOME KEN BURNS.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

NICE TO HAVE YOU BACK.

LISTEN, I DON'T HAVE TO TELL

ANYBODY IN THE WORLD WHO KEN

BURNS IS, MAN.

HEY, CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING?

HAVE YOU BEEN TO GEORGE

CLOONEY'S VILLA?

>> NEW YORK BUT I DID HAVE A

DRINK WITH HIM THE OTHER DAY.

>> Stephen: DID YOU REALLY?

DID YOU KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON?

>> WE DIDN'T JUMP IN.

IT WAS COLD IN THE MOUNTAINS OF

COLORADO.

>> THE SHRINKY-DINK.

>> YOU'VE GOT A NEW THREE-PART

DOCUMENTARY.

IT STARTS THIS SUNDAY.

SUNDAY, MONDAY AND TUESDAY AT

8:00 P.M. ON CBS.

IT'S CALLED PROHIBITION.

>>PROHIBITION WAS STARTED IN 1920.

>> BEFORE '33.

>> HOW DRUNK WAS AMERICA BEFORE

PROHIBITION?

>> SO DRUNK.

WE DRANK THREE TIMES THE

QUANTITY THAT WE DANK.

THAT WAS THE REASON FOR THE...

>> Stephen: HOW MUCH WOULD A

MAN DRINK IN A YEAR?

>> 90 BOTTLES PER CAPITA.

BUT WOMEN DIDN'T DRINK, SO MAYBE

180.

>> HOW SWEET.

>> WE HAD A SALOON CULTURE, AND

PEOPLE WERE LAID OUT, FAMILIES

WERE IN DISTRESS AND THEY

DECIDED OVER THE COURSE OF THE

19th CENTURY WAS THAT THE

BEST THING TO DO WAS TO TAKE THE

PROBLEM THAT 10% OF THE PROBLEM

WAS TO APPLY IT TO 100% OF THE

PEOPLE.

TO HAVE THE ONLY AMENDMENT TO

THE CONSTITUTION THAT LIMITS

HUMAN FREEDOM AND THE ONLY ONE

THANK GOODNESS THAT WAS

REPEALED.

>> Stephen: NOW SPECIFICALLY,

WHAT DID THE AMENDMENT SAY AND

WHAT DID THE VOLSTAD ACT DO?

WHAT WAS THE IMPACT OF IT?

>> WELL, THE AMENDMENT SAID YOU

CAN'T MANUFACTURE, SELL AND

TRANSPORT ALCOHOL, AND THE

VOLSTAD ACT, WHICH WAS PUT INTO

EFFECT TO DEFINE ALCOHOL AS ONE

HALF OF ONE%, SO THAT MEANT THAT

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE WAS

ILLEGAL.

BUT THERE WERE SO MANY LOOPHOLES

THAT YOU COULD DRIVE A

PROHIBITION TRUCK THROUGH AND

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.

>> Stephen: AMERICA LOVES

THEIR FREEDOM AND THEY CLEARLY

LOVE THEIR BOOZE.

WHY DO WE LET PEOPLE TAKE AWAY

OUR FREEDOM.

>> THIS IS A REALLY, REALLY GOOD

QUESTION.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: BY THE TIME IT

WENT INTO EFFECT, EVERYBODY

SEEMED TO WANT IT.

THE KU KLUX KLAN WANTED IT, BUT

SO DID THE NAACP.

>> Stephen: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

WITH ONLY ONE BED SHEET.

SO PROGRESSIVES WANTED IT.

SO DID CONSERVATIVES.

THE INDUSTRIALISTS WANTED IT.

SO DID THE WOBBLIES.

THE WORKERS OF THE WORLD, THE

RADICAL LABOR UNION, THEY WANTED

IT BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT ALCOHOL

WAS A FLAW THAT WEAKENED THE

WORKING MAN.

EVERYBODY WANTED IT, BUT IT WAS

PROHIBITION FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

THIS IS A STORY OF SINGLE-ISSUE

CAMPAIGNS THAT PASSED WITH

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

THE DEMONIZATION OF IMMIGRANTS,

THE LOSS OF A CIVIL DISCOURSE.

>> Stephen: HOW COULD WE

POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND A POLITICAL

SYSTEM LIKE THAT?

>> YEAH.

WELL, IT GETS EVEN BETTER.

THERE WAS A WHOLE GROUP OF

PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE THEY LOST

CONTROL OF THEIR COUNTRY AND

COULDN'T TAKE IT BACK.

DO YOU KNOW ACLIEWZ YAS SEIZE

19?

THERE'S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE

SUN.

>> Stephen: DID WE REALLY STOP

DRINKING?

>> NO.

IT ACTUALLY DID GO DOWN FOR A

TIME AND CIRRHOSIS OF THE LIVER

DECLINED AND DRUNK DRIVING

ACCIDENTS DECLINED.

>> Stephen: HOW MANY...

>> THAT'S THE THING.

IT COINCIDED WITH THE MASS

DISTRIBUTION OF CARS.

SO EVERYBODY NOW HAD A CAR.

SO THIS WAS ALREADY A SERIOUS

PROBLEM.

BUT I THINK THE PEOPLE WHO

CONTINUED DRINKING, WHO LOVE THE

SPEAK EASY CULTURE, WHO LOVE THE

IDEA OF SOLICITOUS BOOZE DRANK

MORE AND THERE WAS BINGE

DRINKING AND WOMEN WERE

DRINKING.

>> Stephen: WHY WERE WOMEN

DRINKING?

BECAUSE THEY LOVED THE BAD BOYS?

WHY?

>> OUR GRAND FORECASTER AND OUR

GREAT GRANDMOTHERS WERE DOING

STUFF WE THINK ONLY WE INVENTED.

>> Stephen: YOU SHUT YOUR

MOUTH.

[LAUGHTER]

THOSE WOMEN WERE SAINTS.

THEY WERE SAINTS.

[APPLAUSE]

I WAS CONCEIVED THROUGH A FIRM

HANDSHAKE.

>> IMMACULATE.

>> SO WHAT GOT RID OF IT.

>> WHAT GOT RID OF IT WAS THE

HYPOCRISY.

THEY SKATED AROUND IT WHEF THEY

WANTED.

THEY COULD STOCKPILE IT.

THE DEPRESSION CAME.

IT REMINDED ME WHY WE ENDED THE

FIFTH LARGEST INDUSTRY IN

AMERICA, THE TEAMSTER, THE

BARREL MAKERS, THE WAITERS.

YOU COULDN'T REMEMBER THE

CULTURE WAR, THE MORAL

IMPERATIVE THAT THEY

ABSOLUTELY... THE MORAL

ABSOLUTISM OF PROHIBITION.

THEY REFUSED TO COMPROMISE.

WE MAY STILL HAVE A VERSION OF

PROHIBITION IF THEY HAD BEEN

WILLING TO COMPROMISE.

BUT SINGLE-ISSUE CAMPAIGNS ARE

GRABBED AHOLD BY PEOPLE WHO ARE

CERTAIN THEY'RE RIGHT.

THERE IS NO COMPROMISE.

NOTHING BUT MORE ENFORCEMENT.

BY THAT TIME THE GANGSTER

CULTURE, WE CREATED THE

INVISI-GUARD THE ENDED

CONSEQUENCE, WE CREATED

ORGANIZED CRIME.

WE WOULD NOT HAVE ORGANIZED

CRIME HAD THERE NOT BEEN

PROHIBITION.

>> WITHOUT ANY ORGANIZED CRIME,

THERE WOULD BE NO CAREER FOR

ROBERT DE NIRO.

>> THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT.

>> Stephen: KEN, THANK YOU SO

MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: KEN BURN,

"PROHIBITION" BEGINS AIRING

SUNDAY NIGHT AT 8:00 ON PBS, AND

THE DVD GOES ON SALE STARTING

NEXT WEEK.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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