The 60's got our attention but it was the 70's that really wreaked of dark, constant drama; societal change hurled through the air permeating practically everyone's life; the oil crisis, the energy crisis, Watergate, a second wave of feminism stared down every single conventional man who dared stand in their way, self interest was on the march - the "me" decade had officially arrived. The Vietnam war refused to end, turmoil was an odor hanging above all our supposedly safe and secure lives.
Then patty Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA, everything stopped and the media frenzy began. Patty Hearst was imprisoned in a closet for two months and repeatedly raped and abused. Then she joined the revolution. The very notion an heiress would wish to leave such a privileged life really pissed people off. She should have walked home the minute she had a chance. Like Dorothy, just three clicks and you're home. As Jeffrey Toobin, the writer of this new book suggests; Patty Heart was not brainwashed, she was radicalized. Jeffrey Toobin's an establishment legal analyst for CNN - makes sense.
To think a young woman could be coerced, judged by a jury so easily coerced by the media. American culture is a culture easily coerced. Toobin is and wants to continue to be establishment and for her to leave all that privilege and money, she simply must have been radicalized. Stockholm syndrome is just a journalistic term he said.
As the popular actor John Wayne wrote in a letter to Barbara Walters back in '74, "If everyone is willing to accept the fact that one man can brainwash 900 people into committing suicide (Jonestown-Jim Jones) why can't they believe that a treacherous bunch like the Symbionese liberation Army can brainwash one little girl."
Stockholm Syndrome is not a medical term, according to Toobin, therefore irrelevant. Interesting. Recently I read about the Austrian girl held captive and raped for 8 years, unbelievably, or rather predictably, she's gone back to live part time in her previous hell. Stockholm syndrome is real and there's nothing false about how victims slowly begin to identify with their captors, it's certainly as valid, if not more so, as any of the 100's of new mental disorders registered since our Victimology culture began.
When she was kidnapped back in '74 I was 11 years old, a reader, deeply curious and riveted by this case. Every article written about Patty Hearst I read over and over again, mesmerized and sympathetic. I felt for her. It wasn't as if I grew up wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but we lived in an upscale leafy neighborhood, the kind of place that made you feel safe and secure. I felt loved, living a sheltered life, like she did, and the mere thought of being kidnapped was my worst nightmare. I couldn't wait to grow up and get out into the world but on my terms. To think that a 19 year girl, unformed, newly released into her adult world, engaged and living with her boyfriend, her life suddenly, interrupted, in the most violent way possible.
When I heard of Toobin's book I thought about buying it until I read his book tour interviews, reading about how dismissive he was of her torture, almost peculiarly incurious about the complicated decade that was the 70's. He couldn't recall the 70s', a guy that grew up in that decade, eventually working for CNN.
It was time to go back into my own memory hole so I began by watching Patty Hearst's interview; it threw me back to the 70's and to all that sympathy I felt back then. The media crucified her, all you have to do is look at the images they used:
During her Larry King interview her discomfort is obvious, this is not a time she wants to re-visit. She wants to move on but she also wants to testify against her captors, she wants them to be honest, after all; she had, she'd written a book about her ordeal. She'd come to terms, knowing she'd be impacted by this for the rest of her life. She was 19 years old for heaven's sake. And yet Toobin remains unsympathetic, insisting she was radicalized.
I was a product of the 70's - this decade informed me as much as any, I was ready to be an adult early on; I remember that time, how it felt, right before the 80's and greed and debt wiped away all that unpleasant and dark reality. The 70's remains our most complicated, underrated and misunderstood decade. Just look at those movies. Now it's all spandex, but back then, there was real anger, we were engaged; we felt its impact. I think it was our last gasp of curiosity, before all the noise, technology and sensory overload took over, before that sense of privacy and intimacy folded into a nostalgic image we'd casually glance at in the rear view mirror.
Now, back to the future, thankfully, finally! I can smile when reading about Patty Hearst, now 61 - she's the winner at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York; she has an arch to her life.
"People move on," she told reporters, smiling at Rocket. "I guess people somehow imagine you don't evolve in your life. I have grown daughters and granddaughters and other things that normal people have."