“For a few weeks, you still don't, believe you're really free to think and be yourself. You're still in shock, acting out what you had to perform all those months. When that wears off, there is emotional loss, almost like a death. The other person -- who was you -- is kind of lost. You have been somebody, and now you have to decide who you are all over again – rebuild from scratch.” -Patricia Hearst Shaw, 1988
“Nobody has ever participated like Patty. We don't have anyone else who was kidnapped, converted, captured, and deconvened, She's it.” -- Brian M. Jenkins, terrorism expert; Chairman of the Political Science Department, The RAND Corporation
Patricia Hearst Shaw. That is how her ivory calling cards are engraved, along with a proper Westport, Connecticut, address. At thirty-four, she is the mother of two daughters, ages seven and three. Her husband of nine years, Bernard Shaw, had been a San Francisco policeman and then her bodyguard; now, he is more substantially ensconced -- as head of security for the Hearst Corporation.
“I have a wonderful life," Patricia Shaw says happily of days spent at home writing "trashy" fiction and supervising the construction of a back yard swimming pool. Other days, she dashes into New York City to mingle with the ladies who lunch, to view the fashion collections, and to run charity balls. Last spring, for instance through her friend Yasmin Aga Khan, Shaw was one of the six chairs of the Rita Hayworth Gala for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders. Not two weeks later, her new best friends on the New York social scene, Kimberly Farkas and Kimberly Rockefeller, enlisted her to cochair a restaging of the musical Hair, of all things, to benefit children in families afflicted with AIDS. That evening, the woman known for wearing a Symbionese Liberation Army beret was in Mary McFadden.
Several times a year, Shaw and her family fly home to San Francisco for the opening night of the opera or to vacation at San Simeon on the part of the Hearst ranch reserved for the family. Of course, she is a Republican -- George Herbert Walker Bush can count on the vote of Patricia Campbell Hearst Shaw. Indeed, she refuses to read The New York Times, because, she says, "it's too liberal"; instead, she subscribes to Archie Bunker's favorite newspaper, the scrappy New York Daily News.
But the strong-willed Shaw has not forgotten how to use a weapon. "There are guns all over the house," she explains. She and her husband love to shoot, and she sleeps with a handgun “a little more substantial than a Magnum" next to her bed.
On February 4, 1974, the Symbionese Liberation Anny (SLA) broke into the house Patricia Hearst, nineteen, shared with her boyfriend, and kidnapped her at gunpoint. A month later, she embraced her captors, renounced her family as "fascist pigs,” and took the name "Tania," a female guerrilla who died in Bolivia fighting with Che Guevara. That seminal media event of the 'seventies is about to bob up in the national consciousness again, this time in the movie Patty Hearst, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Natasha Richardson as Patty. The film, out next month, is based on Hearst's 1982 book, Every Secret Thing. But rather than being the final word on this extraordinary tale, the film is bound to unleash a whole new debate because, at crucial moments, it begs the key questions -- Was Patty Hearst's conversion for real, or did she feign allegiance to the SLA to insure her survival? And why didn't she ever try to escape?
The film already has provoked anger and controversy from major players in the real-life drama, people who have remained silent for a decade. "She could have gone home; she could have killed us in our sleep if she wanted to," says one of he former SLA captors. "She wasn't imprisoned for the nineteen or twenty months she was with us. The point is she started out a victim and then a process took place. You can't say it was psychological coercion, and you can't say it was 100 percent free will. We ourselves were fooled by a lot of the dynamic of the conversion.”
Was it, in fact, a conversion experience? How else to explain a kidnapping victim who, within two month emerged with a gun and a new identity to rob a bank with the SLA, and then shoot up a Los Angeles store with submachine gun in a second SLA holdup? Hearst watched on TV as the Los Angeles police fired nine thousand rounds of ammunition into the SLA hideout, killing everyone inside including her lover, "Cujo” (William Wolfe). Hearst herself would have been in the house that day, but she was hiding out in a Disneyland motel with Bill and Emily Harris, the two surviving members of the SLA, who each served five years for her kidnapping. One of the country's most-wanted women, Hearst used a dozen disguises as she crisscrossed the country on the lam, and look part in another bank robbery during which a mother of four was killed -- all before the FBI finally caught up with her, nineteen months after her kidnapping. When Hearst was arrested she gave her profession as "urban guerilla." The star of a sensational trial, she took the Fifth forty-two times. Her lawyers offered brainwashing (referred to as "duress") as her defense; the jury did not buy it, and the heiress was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail. During her two years of incarceration, Hearst and her family launched a major media campaign to influence public opinion in her favor. President Carter finally commuted her sentence on January 29,1979, nearly five years to the day after her kidnapping.
The film, told strictly from Patty Hearst's point of view, tries to persuade the audience of what director Schrader calls the horrendous "psychological reality" with which she had to cope, and the living hell she writes of in her book: a numbing isolation; the belief that her parents had abandoned her (“There was no one out there who could help me,” she writes); her firm convictions that the SLA was "suicidal"; and that the FBI would shoot her on sight.
Schrader shot much of the first half hour of Patty Hearst in near darkness, a stylistic simulation of the terror of being kidnapped, blindfolded, locked in a closet for much of the time, and subjected to regular propaganda sessions for more than a month before Hearst told Cinque, the ex-convict leading the SLA, that she chose to join them.
For a good part of the film, Natasha Richardson plays the forceful Patty like a scared doe: the film doesn't take into account the rage that actually may have fueled Hearst's decision. After all, although her parents, Randolph and Catherine Hearst, paid two million dollars for the abortive food giveaway program the SLA had demanded, they turned down a second set of ransom demands, claiming, according to a source close to the family, it was “throwing good money after bad.” Then, at a delicate moment in the negotiations, Catherine Hearst not only defied the SLA demand that she resign as a Regent of the University of California but renewed her term for another ten years --without telling even her husband. "My father was furious and insisted she shouldn't do it. And she just insisted it was the right thing to do," says Shaw today.
The effect on Patty then, says someone who knew her, was that “she started to see her mother as the enemy.”
According to terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, "Victims quickly realize they have a certain communality of interests with their captors. They both want to see the demands met. So, if her folks on the outside are not getting with the program, they become the adversaries.”
During her confinement, various members of the SLA would “rap” to Hearst for hours and read her news clippings. Although she has written that what they told her went "against my grain," nevertheless a lot of it sunk in. "Some of their stories were indisputable," she writes, "sometimes I did not know what to believe. It was all very confusing. I realized that my life prior to my kidnapping had indeed been very sheltered." When she finally was able to get out of the closet -- off "death row," as she puts it and to convince the SLA that she was sincere in wanting to join them, she felt tremendous relief, and something else as well. Hearst writes in her book: "In trying to convince them, I convinced myself. I felt that I had truly joined them; my past life seemed to have slipped away. . . . Somewhere in the jumble of my reasoning was the hope, reborn, that the essential thing was that I would survive. I would stay with this horrible group for a while and the day would come when I would be rescued or perhaps be able to escape."
But the day never came. Instead, Hearst participated in escalating acts of violence and never once tried to escape. Why?
"There is no clear picture about what really happened because I'm not sure everyone is telling all the facts," says William Coblentz, a prominent San Francisco attorney who advised the Hearst family during the kidnapping. "The odds are we will never know," says terrorism expert Jenkins. "We have lie-detector machines, but no machine to deal with memory -- the way people remember things as they happened." Shaw herself, however, is adamant. She was a victim, pure and simple, and all of her actions flowed from a flawed state of mind brought on by coercion. When you are sitting at home and people burst in with guns and kidnap you -- there are no two sides!"
Her SLA captors were convinced that Hearst was a genuine convert when she joined them in robbing the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. "She never would have been taken to do such a thing if she was not felt to be 100 percent with us," says one of them. "You do not give a person who's a captive a loaded weapon, an automatic weapon." Shaw protests; she says that the bolt on the weapon was turned. But could she have turned the bolt? Today, she is evasive. "I don't know," she says. One of her kidnappers contends that, due to Hearst's inexperience, she jammed the gun and could not get it unjammed while she was in the bank. "She wasn't coerced. She was freely involved in it -- I don't know how else to put it."
Shaw argues that she was controlled by other people the whole time, and in her mind was unable to distinguish right from wrong. "At Mel's Sporting Goods Store, I really began to notice I was no longer in control when, without a thought, I just did what I had been trained to do -- fire the machine gun and the other guns in sequence." Given her overall fear-and her fear of the Harrises in particular (she calls them "evil") -- she says she never believed she could escape. Not even months later when she and another radical boyfriend, a house painter named Steven Soliah, were mistakenly thought to be stranded on some rocks near San Francisco Bay and some friendly sheriffs deputies rescued them. Shaw didn't give herself up, she says, because she genuinely believed she was without options -- still in terror of the police because of the way they had decimated the SLA hideout. "Everybody asked me, why didn't I go to the police?" says Shaw. "Why would I? A police station! That's about the last place I would have thought would be safe to walk into."
Certainly, the climate of opinion regarding the psychology of the political terrorism victim is more enlightened today than in 1974. We have lived through terrorist activities such as the Iran hostage-taking and, in the past few years, inured ourselves to regular airline hijackings. We have become aware of the "Stockholm" or "survivor syndrome," a term used to describe a captive's positive feelings toward his or her captors (though not to the extent that he or she necessarily joins them). Women especially are familiar with the concept of "blaming the victim," a tendency to think that a person somehow asks for her misfortune or deserves what she gets, such as in the case of rape. But, according to some of the country's leading terrorism experts, brainwashing -- deliberate coercive persuasion -- cannot account for the depth of Hearst's conversion. Not even the Stockholm syndrome can explain nineteen months of sustained rage at the system. A conversion process like hers is complex, they claim, and had a great deal to do with her age, sex, and personality development at the time of the kidnapping.
In prep school, Hearst's IQ was measured at 130. Among Randolph and Catherine Hearst's five daughters, "she was the iconoclast, the individualist," says lawyer Coblentz. "Patty was known to be rebellious." Her first cousin, William Randolph Hearst III, publisher of The San Francisco Examiner, agrees: "She was certainly someone capable of expressing her own mind. She tended to challenge people and ideas." At the time of her kidnapping, Patty Hearst was nineteen, living with and engaged to be married to someone her family didn't like: Steven Weed, her former math tutor and a philosophy graduate student at Berkeley where she was a student. (In her book, Hearst contends she had doubts about going through with the wedding.)
One of her SLA captors says that, ironically, it was Hearst's large engagement picture in The San Francisco Chronicle that triggered the kidnapping plan: "You rarely see that much information about someone in the ruling class." At first, the captor says, the SLA viewed her merely as a "rich bitch"; but as time and the propaganda sessions wore on, they began to view her as "exceptional, a diamond in the rough. She had spunk." The SLA seemed almost flattered when she decided to join.
Other ties began to develop as well. At her trial, Hearst testified that she was forced to have sex in the closet with both Cinque and William Wolfe, the son of a doctor, a National Merit Scholar finalist, and a prep school graduate like Hearst. One of her captors vehemently disputes this, saying that the women in the group, radical feminists, would never have condoned rape. Although it was considered "comradely" to have sex with everyone within the group, Hearst spurned the four female SLA members in favor of Wolfe. After he died in the SLA shootout, Hearst issued an emotional communiqué (she later said she was forced to write it) that eulogized him as "the gentlest, most beautiful man I've ever known . . . Neither Cujo or I had ever loved an individual the way we loved each other. "
"In the Stockholm syndrome, the victim -- on a level far deeper than his or her conscious control -- experiences a primitive gratitude toward captors, like that of an infant toward parents who are life-giving," says Dr. Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., a Michigan psychiatrist who has debriefed dozens of terrorist victims and founded a center for post-trauma therapy. "Patty Hearst could have interpreted her dependency and gratitude for the gift of life as romantic love. "
Shaw admits that Wolfe was a haven of sorts. "But, after being blindfolded several weeks and left in a closet, you're just not thinking the way you normally would. I think what your mind does is look for anything to make you feel better about what is happening."
According to Jenkins, it is plausible that a young woman like Hearst could fall in with the SLA, many of whom were more educated than she (Bill Harris, who is portrayed in the film as not particularly bright, even a bit deranged, has a master's degree in urban education). “Patty was a clean slate. She took a baby step of rebellion with Steven Weed, someone her family didn't regard as an ideal candidate for their daughter. He was her math tutor; Cinque became her political tutor. After that, she married her bodyguard. There begins to be a pattern here.”
Says Dr. Ochberg, "It's helpful to think of her at the time of the kidnapping as at a stage of life -- late adolescence -- where her identity was not yet formed and fully internalized."
Today, Shaw compares Cinque to Charles Manson, and the SLA to a cult. "You can hardly have a hold on reality when you're all living in one room and staying up all night having self-criticism sessions. It was mass hypnosis. By the end, they were chanting, 'We won't live to see the end of the revolution.' "
To those outside the SLA who knew "Tania," she was a person ready to "kill pigs" on sight. Her ravings and rhetoric represented "the spirit of my generation gone crazy," says Jack Scott, a onetime sports activist and radical writer who is not portrayed in the movie. Scott first met Hearst and the Harrises shortly after their return to Berkeley following the shoot-out in Los Angeles, Scott describes them as “cornered rats trying to act brave. Patty was armed to the teeth and the most militant in terms of revolutionary rhetoric."
On the condition that she give up her guns, Scott agreed to transport Hearst across the country to a farmhouse hideout in Pennsylvania, where he introduced her to another underground radical, Wendy Yoshimura, the woman living with her when she was captured. (Yoshimura, onetime girlfriend of a terrorist bomber, was once charged with "liberating bologna from a Safeway,” says Scott.) Part of Scott's generosity came from his interest in seeing a book written about the SLA. (He later sued Hearst and won a $30,000 settlement for her falsely portraying him in her book as running an underground railroad for radicals, but he also signed a release allowing her to reprint the book as written.)
Scott decided the safest way to travel with Patty was in a car with his parents, managers of a Nevada motel. But he also realized that delivering Hearst to her parents would be an even bigger story. "Just before we were to get on the freeway to head east, my father stopped the car and said, 'Patty, you know we're not part of the SLA. We'll take you wherever you want to go.' " According to Scott, she replied, " 'Take me the fuck where you're supposed to, or you'll all be dead.' My parents got very scared and said, 'Okay, we'll just head north.’”
"Then," says Scott, "for five days we got to hear the saga of the Hearst family as Patty saw it then -- how her mother was a heavy drinker and a pill popper, how Patty was raised by hired help and never really saw her parents, how she felt when she saw her mother renew her Regent's term for ten years, and her father imply [by his rejection of the SLA's second ransom demand} that Patty was worth a couple of million dollars and that was all."
Shaw denies the Scotts ever made such an offer. "They were totally afraid, just doing their son’s bidding. It never came up."
Micki Scott, Jack’s wife, had the same impression of Hearst as her husband. "When Patty stopped in New York City on her way to Pennsylvania, she would take the Times, sit in the comer with her Magic Marker and circle pictures and names of people for her death list -- people like Jane Fonda and Angela Davis. If you weren't for the SLA, you were part of the establishment." Shaw responds: "I'm not going to get into a debate with Jack and Micki Scott. Honest to God, I don't care what they say. They don 't know what I was like before."
Shaw describes her psychological state at the time as "a collapse of the mental capability to discern right from wrong, and reality from what I wanted the SLA to believe. It was critical to have them believe that I believed every word they said. But I got to a point where everything snapped, and I couldn't tell where I was pretending and where I was real. I was just going along, dutifully purging myself of bad thoughts, and not realizing that I didn't have control over anything I was doing or thinking."
Did she ever feel there was a time when she was crossing over into criminal behavior? Shaw laughs sardonically, "Of course, none of it was considered criminal because it was a revolution. Everything had different names."
She labels her mental state “traumatic neurosis with dissociative features," Dr. Ochberg, who recently edited a book called, Post-Traumatic Therapy and Victims of Violence, says this state is not psychotic -- which would probably exempt a person from culpability under the law -- but, at its extreme, borders on psychosis. "In a dissociative state, you vaguely know what's real and what isn't. It's as if you're traveling in a daze." Is what Shaw describes plausible? "Yes," says Dr. Ochberg, reaffirming Shaw's statement that she even felt a state of loss during her first weeks in jail as the part of her that had become Tania, the revolutionary, receded, and Patricia Hearst, the California blueblood, began to reappear.
Did this make Hearst responsible for criminal acts? "This gets to a very controversial part of the law," says Dr. Ochberg. "My own feeling is that the law places a little too much emphasis on the legal concept of mens rea, the capacity for having a guilty mind as a result of knowing right from wrong. But she did have some responsibility, as I understand the facts." On the other hand, he says, "Patty sounds very intelligent in her self-analysis; if she now appears like a thoughtful and rational woman, she may be the best eyewitness."
After her arrest, F. Lee Bailey, the flamboyant attorney retained by the Hearsts who was widely criticized for his handling of the case, never tried to get Hearst out on bail or to plea bargain her case. (To gain sympathy for the protagonist, the movie shows a fictional plea bargaining sequence in which the government denies her this option.) Instead, Hearst spent months in jail "hiding out," she says, "a mistake." Meanwhile, she was mercilessly probed and tested by psychiatrists on both sides (one doctor even released her medical records), a process some viewed as deprogramming and others as “revictimization.” Shortly after her arrest, there were clear signs of trauma: her IQ was measured at 112; there were huge gaps in her memory regarding her pre-Tania life; she was smoking heavily; she had nightmares; her weight went down to eighty-seven pounds. Then, at one point just after her conviction, when she began to implicate her former comrades in hopes of gaining a more lenient sentence, one of her lungs collapsed.
Today, Jack Scott says, "I feel sad for Patty that she's boxed herself in, perpetuating the nightmare by taking a course that isn't the truth." But Shaw herself, softer and rounder than in her Tania days, is serene. Although her parents have divorced -- "undoubtedly because of my kidnapping," she says -- the only lasting effect on her of the years in captivity, she says, is a contempt for psychiatrists and a hatred of drugs. "That was the reason 90 percent of the women in prison with me were there. Now, when I see a friend who wants to smoke a joint, I say, 'Don't you know that by doing that you are enslaving a black person in Harlem?’ " That is as far as Shaw's politicization goes. "However ferocious she was in the SLA, there was still a part of her that was Patricia Hearst," says Nicholas Kazan, the film's screenwriter. "As her father once said, you simply can't deny the first nineteen years."
Lunching recently at the chic New York City restaurant Bellini, Patricia Hearst Shaw, who recently has not shunned the limelight, confides that upon being invited to accompany her film to the Cannes Film Festival, her first question was "Should I wear long or short?" (Once there, she received a standing ovation.)
"I've retained all the residual rights to my film,” Shaw explains over a bowl of fish soup. "There will be no sit-coms from the movie, no Patty T-shirts, no Tania guns. " She is particularly pleased about keeping the musical rights. "You just never know what might come up in life," she says several days later. "Who would have thought somebody would make a musical about Eva Peron?"
Shaw's older daughter has already come home from school and asked whether it's true that her mother was kidnapped and put in jail because she robbed a bank. As her daughters grow, the questions will invariably become more pointed. But in a society where Claus von Bulow and the Mayflower Madam are invited to the best parties, Patricia Hearst Shaw wears her notoriety like a badge of honor.
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