Those of us of a certain age remember the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst. Jeffrey Toobin revisits that turbulent time in an interesting new book, “American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst”. As the title suggests, it really was a wild saga. The 19 year old daughter of a wealthy and privileged family was kidnapped by a ragtag bunch called the Symbionese Liberation Army. They fancied themselves as revolutionaries, and after a few weeks of captivity, Patty decided to join the revolution. Amazing. It sounds like the plot of a bad Movie-of-the-Week. In retrospect, the tale of Patty Hearst seems like one of the last big, news-dominating events of the 60’s, even though her kidnapping didn’t happen until 1974. The chaos and tumult of the 60’s did not stop when the calendar changed to 1970. It was an unstable time and there were many acts of what would now be called domestic terrorism. To be clear, at first Patty Hearst was the victim of a brutal, terrifying abduction. Eventually, though, she became a willing member of the SLA. She wanted excitement and to be liberated from her boring family, her boring boyfriend, and her boring existence. She participated in serious SLA crimes and had many opportunities to go back to her former life. But she had no desire to do so, not until 19 months after the abduction, when she was caught and jailed. Jeffrey Toobin unearthed and embraced the details, then wrote the definitive account of one of the more unusual events in American history.
Was Patty Hearst a hapless victim under the stress of Stockholm Syndrome? Well, she was kidnapped, but she became a willing participant in a string of bank robberies staged by the Symbionese Liberation Army, so the answer is no. Did she know how to play the media when she was finally captured? Absolutely - and she and her family did. This book is a compelling tale of one of the most bizarre episodes of the 1970s, set against a time when America was extremely violent - to the point that an average of fifteen hundred terrorist attacks occurred every year. It also recounts the ridiculous food distribution program in San Francisco and Oakland the kidnappers demanded as "ransom," as well as the biggest police shootout in American history to that time. In addition to the main characters, the book also includes a rather odd collection of supporting players, including (but not limited to) Ronald Reagan, Joan Baez, Jim Jones, Kevin Kline, F. Lee Bailey, John Wayne - and Lance Ito. Patty Hearst may have "redeemed" herself in the strict sense of the word, but her crimes can never be forgotten - this book is an attempt to make sure they aren't.
Very much enjoyed this well-researched telling of the events surrounding the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst. I've read a bit about her before, so I already knew the basics, but Toobin added new information to my understanding. That said, I think his position about Hearst's role in the SLA and her motivation in joining them shows, and I didn't see it as entirely as fact with no opinion. Even so, it's a fascinating part of the counter-culture history of the 70's with lots for readers to think about
Well! Sure is different from Patty's account in Every Secret Thing which I read years ago, and bought into though I had questions, which've now been answered. She was not a victim except for the kidnapping part. What I think is she was looking for an identity and found it, temporarily, with the SLA. Otherwise she was a bit of a sociopath which author hints at though does not come right out and say as it would've been rude.
The fascinating and almost unbelievable story of Patty Hearst, the heiress to the Hearst fortune, who was kidnapped in the 1970s by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army. The crux of the Hearst story if whether she willingly joined them in their crimes or was brainwashed. Jeffrey Toobin, who has written about O.J. Simpson and the Supreme Court withhold judgement, but let's the facts speak for themselves. He situates Heart's kidnapping in the tumultuous political climate of 1970s California and in the curdling of the idealism of the previous decade. It is an incredible story and he tells it with intelligence, sympathy, and verve. Highly recommended.
I will never confuse the term Stockholm syndrome with The Patty Hearst story again.
In a careful, detailed and chronological fashion ,Toobin takes us through the Hearst kidnapping,to her arrest.
Along the way, against the backdrop of Jim Jones and the Guaynese massacre,and the violent culture of west coast 'radicalism',we take sides and then don't with Hearst .
In the end, we leave disgusted, as big money buys her not only a defence, but a pardon..the obvious contrast between her outcome and that of the majority of prisoners without money and resources is just so loud.
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