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April 22, 2005 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Recently scanned article from the April 29th, 1974 Newsweek detailing Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Like many, I was vaguely aware that this had happened by had never read the details. (Direct page links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
posted by dirtylittlemonkey (33 comments total)

 
Sigh, is descreening really so hard?

Nice article, though :)
posted by redteam at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2005


Heheh, Well DirtyLittleMonkey. Sit down and let me tell you a little story about Cinque and his little cult........

Ok. I'm officially an old bastard because I remember this whole story like it was yesterday. As it unfolded, I remember it now as that time when I truly became aware of the evil in the world. If I remember correctly, the final gun battle with Cinque and Co. was televised. Could be wrong.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2005


I always had a theory that the Patty Hearst case, along with Jonestown, were both pivotal events in the rightward swing of this country in the late 70's. It's not that crazy shit hadn't happened before, but the relatively new omnipresence of the mass media made their impact much more profound. Plus coming after a decade and half of huge social change, these two events (along with other general trends of the time) made people wonder if the world had indeed spun out of control, thus making people long for security and "normalcy." Of course any honest look at history will confirm that these events were not truly aberrations but part of what Phillip Roth calls the "native American Berserk."

They were also the first two news stories that I remember the grown-ups talking about in shocked whispers, so as a teenager I developed temporary obsessions with them and read all I could about them.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 AM on April 22, 2005


If I remember correctly, the final gun battle with Cinque and Co. was televised. Could be wrong.

You are correct, sir. Patty Hearst, Emily Harris and Bill Harris watched the gun battle (and resulting house fire) on live TV from a motel room. They happened to be out on an "action" (buying supplies from Mel's Sporting Goods) and were not at the house when the fight began. The other members of the SLA burned or smothered to death in the fire, but evidence showed that Donald DeFreeze (Cinque) had shot himself in the head.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:42 AM on April 22, 2005


Tania! Terrorist Chic! : >

People still say she wasn't brainwashed at all, but just another spoiled rich kid acting out and rebelling, and had her family sweep in and save her when it got too real. She's still married to the guy who saved her i think (and he's head of Hearst Security now).

Those images of her in the bank with the gun became so iconic--they were everywhere.
posted by amberglow at 9:58 AM on April 22, 2005


johmc -- I wouldn't consider Jonestown and Patty Hearst as pivotal. They were clearly striking events, but in the context of the social acting out that began with the Watts riots of 1964, and which dominated the news for the next decade, they were just more of the same craziness. The country was "out of control" for a long time. In fact, I would say the shootout at the burning SLA house marked the end of that particular social cycle. Most of America was paralyzed in the Jimmy Carter during the late 70s "malaise," until the Iran hostage crises. The hostage crises was far more important in the country's rightward turn than Jonestown and the Hearst kidnapping.
posted by Faze at 10:43 AM on April 22, 2005


My little sister idolized Patty Hearst. She used to sign her letters from camp "Tania" and draw SLA snakes on the envelopes.

She's now a big cheese in the ad game.
posted by tizzie at 10:45 AM on April 22, 2005


Thanks for refreshing my memory Oriole Adams. As I recall, it was that event and watching the Watergate hearings that symbolized my loss of youthful innocence.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:47 AM on April 22, 2005


If we're talking pivotal events, let's not forget a certain Charles Manson. This particular insane persons actions represented, in the popular imagination, what happens when you take too much drugs and just do it if it feels good.

My little sister idolized Patty Hearst.
She's now a big cheese in the ad game.

Heh, somehow that makes perfect sense.
posted by scheptech at 10:54 AM on April 22, 2005


Even from this distance (Oz) the Hearst & Jonestown stories really did seem to be the touchstone stories of the new media above all others ('cept maybe watergate), irrespective of their roles as political lynchpins. They are by far the 2 biggest stories remembered from my childhood. I'd never known saturation coverage before -- this may be reminiscing mind tricks but I don't think so.
posted by peacay at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2005


In fact, I would say the shootout at the burning SLA house marked the end of that particular social cycle.

Exactly. They were the media events (I'm speaking in very broad generalities here, obviously) that made a lot of Americans finally think "The world has gone mad. We need to get back to old-fashioned values, blahdy blah bullshit... and act on it, starting a decade of rightward political and social change, which didn't happen after the Watts riots, Manson etc.

And that's not a condemnation of people who did that. Witnessing those events (and others like them and other general trends of the time) it would be a perfectly reasonable (but incorrect) conclusion to come to.
posted by jonmc at 10:57 AM on April 22, 2005


I was in high school, and came home that night from a Star Trek convention at Michigan State (where I was too clueless to be able to tell Nichelle Nichols where Wells Hall was) to see this shootout on TV.
posted by rfs at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2005


Watergate and Vietnam were far far bigger i think--Tania and Jonestown were like the second string. Sort of like how Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan weren't the top story of that year, but we'll always remember it.
posted by amberglow at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2005


Watergate and Vietnam were far far bigger i think--Tania and Jonestown were like the second string.

Vietnam as a war had been a round for so long that it can't be seen as a pivotal single event. You could make a case for the Fall Of Saigon though. Watergate was important in how it changed a lot of things in government but it wasn't as spectacular event as Hearst or Jonestown, and wouldn't precipitate a rightward swing, you'd think.

Mind you, I'm not saying that people watched those events on the news and instantly became republicans, just that they were important flashpoints in larger trends.
posted by jonmc at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2005


If this interested you, you'll probably want to check out the movie Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (trailer), released just this Fall.
posted by rafter at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2005


Right, larger trends, there's bigger forces at work driving whether society is heading left or right. Boomer perspective:
50's - right: aftermath of the war, young family child-orientation
60's - left: driven by youthful rebellion, civil rights, vietnam
70's - still left but yeah we're re-thinking, party's about over, time to grow up
80's - a little right: driven by greed mostly, new kind of party, money is the new "in thing"
90's - a little more right: still greed, evidence: internet bubble
00's - hard right: boomers getting older, internet bust, kicked into overdrive by 911
posted by scheptech at 11:25 AM on April 22, 2005


speaking of films, I suggest Paul Schrader's interesting take on the Hearst case
posted by matteo at 11:29 AM on April 22, 2005


rafter, was about to recommend that documentary too. it's the perfect way to get into this story for us people who need our information in movie form.
i didn't see schrader's dramatized version, but it's based on hearst's book, which can't be a good thing. one of the refreshing things about the "guerrilla" movie was that it focused mostly on the larger social aspects of the story, and didn't really give a rat's about patty hearst herself.
posted by Silky Slim at 12:17 PM on April 22, 2005


Funnily enough I was reading through all this on wikipedia the other day whilst reading about old William Randolph Hearst - it's good to see some links from the time at last.

Was there ever any doubt that she was doing what she was doing from choice? Does anyone still believe in "brainwashing"?
posted by longbaugh at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2005


And don't forget the best song written about the event, Tania by Camper Van Beethoven

Oh, my beloved Tania
How I long to see your face
Photographed in fifteen second intervals
In a bank in San Leandro
A Polaroid of you, Cinque
With a seven-headed dragon
In a house in Daly City
Don't be sad, my beloved Tania
They say your father never liked Stephen Weed anyway
Hired a detective
To follow him around
Oh, my beloved revolutionary sweetheart
I can see your newsprint face turn yellow in the gutter
It makes me sad
How I long for the days when you came to liberate us from boredom
From driving around from five to seven in the evening
My beloved Tania,
We carry your gun deep within our hearts
For no better reason than our lives have no meaning
And we want to be on television
posted by fletchmuy at 1:09 PM on April 22, 2005


Thanks for that, fletchmuy. Reading this thread I was already wondering if CVB's Tania had to do with this story.
posted by Berend at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2005


And don't forget the best song written about the event, Tania by Camper Van Beethoven

Thought not written about the event, I always liked Warren Zevon's reference in Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner:

Patty Hearst
Heard the burst
Of Roland's Thompson Gun
And bought it
posted by Fat Guy at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2005


See, i think it took long, drawn-out things like Vietnam and Watergate to effect changes in mindset and attitude, not media spectacles that were sensational, and only lasted a short time.

It'd be like saying the OJ chase, and trial, marked a similar change, altho typing this makes me realize that the Schiavo thing actually did mark something, but not a change in attitude--more of a waking up to the overreaching (and we still don't know how that'll turn out, or is true or not).

(Maybe Patty Hearst and Jonestown are more like the Manson Stuff with Sharon Tate, and Terri Schiavo is more like the fall of McCarthy?)

I dunno--it's interesting to think about, but who can really peg societal shifts to just one thing?
posted by amberglow at 2:55 PM on April 22, 2005


In case any fellow MeFi'ers are arms students: What kind of weapon is that that Patty Hearst is holding in that photo on the cover of Newsweek? It looks vaguely familiar, but the big scope on it is throwing me off -- I can't figure out what type it is.
posted by alumshubby at 3:01 PM on April 22, 2005


Despite how 'big' this may have been in its day, none of this was ever taught in history or civics class, and it doesn't get told to kids, except maybe through pieces of ramones songs that you sing and don't know what you're singing about.

so it's creepy to read about it --so much of my parents' politics, or complete lack thereof, seems revealed when i learn about things like this, people my parents' age acting like spectacular nutcases in the name of this or that political agenda, and the history of how it got eaten up, spit out onto television screens, cycled through the echo chamber, and re-consumed by the american public at the time.

My dad saw that i was reading the autobiography of angela davis, and didn't say anything, just started shaking his head. I thought it was just because he's a bit of a racist--but after reading this, i can imagine him imagining me with a goofy beret and some israeli assault rifle over my shoulder, robbing a bank. Mostly i just wonder why he never says anything, why no one told me about any of this. Maybe it was just too wild to explain.

Is this what happens after years and years of being in some bullshit unwinnable, interminable war? and is Paris Hilton next?
posted by eustatic at 4:09 PM on April 22, 2005


It's a really dark image there alumshubby - in the photo of her taken from the bank she looks to have a .30 Cal M1 Carbine but that image is way to dark to make it out. It looks like it's a big ol' torch on the top though, as far as I have been able to make out the SLA had a whole bunch of different weapons, M1 carbines, Thompsons and S & W Model 76s. This black and white image is slightly clearer but I still can't make it out. More than likely it was a home-made weapon (much like the IRA used to use), this would be born out by the quote -

A few blocks away, under a faded Victorian, they spotted a crawl space, a gloomy cave for rats and runaway dogs. As Patty and the Harrises huddled in the dirt under the old house, the noise of a late-night party began in the living room above. Patty gripped her homemade machine gun. "The pigs must have found the car!"

- from Tania's World, An Insider's Account of Patty Hearst on the Run.

/apparently an arms student...
posted by longbaugh at 4:22 PM on April 22, 2005


See, i think it took long, drawn-out things like Vietnam and Watergate to effect changes in mindset and attitude, not media spectacles that were sensational, and only lasted a short time.

I'd be the last person to deny that long, drawn out things have an effect, but one byproduct of things being drawn out is that people have time to get used to them. Catacylsmic events don't give you that chance and by their very over-the-topness make a lasting impression.
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on April 22, 2005


Patty Hearst heard the burst of my thompson gun
posted by Slagman at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2005


I feel bad for Steve Weed, though not much. If you're interested in this subject, you should check out the recent documentary about the Weather Underground. SLA comes up, I believe.
posted by Slagman at 5:21 PM on April 22, 2005


I always had a theory that the Patty Hearst case, along with Jonestown, were both pivotal events in the rightward swing of this country in the late 70's.

I would just like to mention that the studio apartment that the whole damn Symbionese Liberation Army & their pal Tania holed up in for 8 weeks is on my block. My post office sits on the former site of Jim Jones' People's Temple. Oh, and Charlie Manson lived in a few places around the neighborhood, too.

Maybe those events turned the rest of the country right, but here where they happened we remain decidedly Lefty.

Thanks for the post-- I'm going to Hearst Castle for the first time this weekend, so it should be interesting reading once I've recovered from squinting at those scans thus far.
posted by obloquy at 7:47 PM on April 22, 2005


I would just like to mention that the studio apartment that the whole damn Symbionese Liberation Army & their pal Tania holed up in for 8 weeks is on my block. My post office sits on the former site of Jim Jones' People's Temple. Oh, and Charlie Manson lived in a few places around the neighborhood, too.

And I'm sure that's all mentioned in the tourism pamphlets.
posted by jonmc at 8:05 PM on April 22, 2005


My gut tells me jonmc's overstating the impact of Jonestown and the SLA on the late 20th-century rightward slide of the country, and that Watergate and the Iran hostage-taking were much more influential. But I don't feel like arguing the point as much as he does.

The documentary Slagman mentions is Sam Green's "The Weather Underground;" it's been at the top of my to-see list for a couple of weeks now. Here's a detailed, rather personal SF Bay Guardian review with a neat tidbit:

And when Weather activists supported the SLA – who, if not police agents, were buffoons of the highest order – most activists weren't surprised.
posted by mediareport at 8:22 PM on April 22, 2005


Iran hostage-taking were much more influential.

With the Iran hostages you have a case, since a lot of people reached their "I've had enough," point with diplomacy with that, but a lot of older people, including my own parents, reacted to Watergate with a "he's corrupt sure, but he's a politician, they're all corrupt," shrug.
posted by jonmc at 8:36 PM on April 22, 2005


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