Sunday, September 25, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt seven)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

Events moved so quickly on May 16 that the news media never caught up. But the shoot-out at Mel’s and the chase that followed gave local television stations the chance to mobilize the following morning. In those days, most local stations sent out camera crews to shoot film that had to be developed back at their studios. But KNXT—which stood for “experimental television”—possessed a new technology that allowed it to broadcast live from the field through a microwave transmitter attached to the top of a small truck. The technology was so new that the team at KNXT is said to have invented its name: the Minicam.

KNXT (later renamed KCBS) would become a national prototype for local news in America. This happened, in part, because Mary Tyler Moore’s aunt happened to work as the business manager of the station, and she shared tales of the station’s lead anchor, Jerry Dunphy—who served as the model for the hapless Ted Baxter. But the station was also a journalistic and ratings leader, with a strong institutional commitment to securing scoops. For KNXT, the Minicam was a not-so-secret weapon. Bill Deiz, a thirty-year-old correspondent for KNXT, wanted to deploy the new technology when he showed up for work on the morning of May 17 to cover the biggest story the city had seen in a long time: the sudden, thunderous arrival of the Symbionese Liberation Army.



Saturday, September 24, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt six)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

The three SLA vehicles linked up later in the morning. DeFreeze appeared in his red-and-white van, which had the odd feature of dainty curtains on the windows. Nancy Ling was deputized to find the group a place to live, and she returned to report that she had located a house at 822 West Eighty-Fourth Street, in South Central, for the modest sum of $70 a month. When the comrades assembled there, they saw why the price was so low. Even by the modest standards of the comrades’ living conditions in San Francisco, the place was a wreck—a three-room shack with no electricity and thus no hot water, in the heart of the ghetto. Even with the big score at the bank, the comrades couldn’t help but notice the downward trajectory of their living conditions. They had gone from a comfortable suburban house in Concord, to a modest home in Daly City, to a pair of seedy apartments in San Francisco, to this hovel in Los Angeles. The dismal regression offered a vivid counterpoint to DeFreeze’s promises of imminent victory.

There was no furniture, no stove, no refrigerator, no cooking utensils. Emily Harris and Camilla Hall snuck out to a grocery store and returned with canned spinach and okra, which they attempted to flavor with another purchase, canned mackerel. The comrades who could stomach the mixture ate it cold. Patricia, her weight already below a hundred pounds, lived on crackers and Kipper Snacks, a different kind of canned fish. As in San Francisco, the black neighborhood made it difficult for anyone but DeFreeze to leave the house without drawing attention. Mostly, they stayed inside, doing their military drills and calisthenics in desultory compliance with their established custom. DeFreeze added instruction in knife fights to their daily ritual.



Friday, September 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt five)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

The exhilaration over the bank robbery passed after a few days, replaced by DeFreeze’s paranoia as well as the claustrophobia created by nine bodies in a small apartment. This time, DeFreeze had a new idea about how he was going to advance the cause. He would begin recruiting new members by ringing doorbells and introducing himself to strangers as General Field Marshal Cinque of the SLA.

Even by DeFreeze’s standards, this was a lunatic notion. He was perhaps the most wanted man in America, and his photograph had been all over the news. Still, it galled DeFreeze to fancy himself a leader of black people when all of his followers were white. Now, he thought, it was time to reach out to African Americans, and most of the neighbors in the Western Addition neighborhood happened to be black. He believed he could build on the outlaw sensibility he had cultivated with the food giveaway and the bank robbery. DeFreeze told Angela Atwood and Bill Harris to accompany him on his rounds and stand behind him as he made his pitch to whoever happened to open the door. (Harris, characteristically, thought DeFreeze’s idea was madness, though he did comply with the order to tag along.)



Thursday, September 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt four)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

After Steven Weed moved out of the Hearst family mansion, he continued his quixotic, independent investigation of the kidnapping. In early April, Weed tried to make connections in the radical exile community, hoping to find a country that might grant asylum to the SLA, if they freed Patricia. One of his contacts suggested that Régis Debray, the originator of the foco theory (whose books had been found in the Concord house), might be willing to help. As a bonus, Debray had known the original Tania and could speak about her character and motivations. Weed’s acquaintance called the singer Joan Baez, a friend of Debray’s, who agreed to contact the Marxist theoretician, who was living in Mexico. Debray indicated some interest in trying to help. Weed then ran the idea by Randy Hearst.

“We need a goddamn South American revolutionary mixed up in this thing like a hole in the head,” Randy replied.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt three)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

In their communication demanding the giveaway, the SLA had listed more than a dozen community and political groups that were to participate in and monitor the process. This proved to be a savvy move. The groups ranged from the Black Panthers and the United Farm Workers to local operations like the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. Several of these organizations, like the Panthers and the UFW, immediately refused to be associated with the SLA because of its responsibility for the assassination of Marcus Foster. But most of the others, including the American Indian Movement and the United Prisoners Union, agreed to take part, mostly be contributing members to assist in the distribution of food. Most important, the participating groups helped validate the operation. Their involvement marked a turning point in the brief history of the SLA—a crucial step in the laundering of its reputation.

The Berkeley Barb, the alternative weekly that served as the unofficial paper of record for the Bay Area counterculture, reflected this change in the SLA’s public image. Following the kidnapping, and the demand for the food giveaway, the Barb heaped praise on the SLA. The group has “pulled off a devastatingly successful action, underscored the extent of poverty in this state, and written a few pages of American history,” one article noted. “Terror has always been a tool of government and has a legitimate use in actions taken by guerilla groups against repressive governments . . . . The life of each Vietnamese peasant is just as valuable as the life of Patty Hearst, who is another non-combatant caught up in a war.” Barb headlines from this period included “SLA, We Love You” and “How Can I Join?” In this way, the kidnapping of Hearst, and especially the food giveaway, became such important, high-profile national events that they pushed the SLA’s involvement in the Foster murder from the public consciousness. After only three months, this heinous event, amazingly enough, was on its way to being forgotten.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt two)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

On the way, DeFreeze’s group referred to each other only by code names, and Cinque—DeFreeze—took the lead in establishing discipline. “Shut up or we’ll kill you!” he shouted from the front passenger seat as soon as they took off. Bill Harris, on the other hand, was impressed with Patricia’s composure, especially compared with the panicked reaction of her fiancé, and he wanted to comfort her. Bill was in the backseat, with Patricia curled up and silent behind him. As Cinque bellowed, Bill Harris—Teko—reached under the blanket and held Patricia Hearst’s hand. She was threatened and reassured at the same time.

The unplanned juxtaposition of terror and kindess in the station wagon would prove typical of Patricia’s time in captivity. The SLA comrades lacked the skills, or even the inclination, to attempt anything as ambitious as a brainwashing. Their schizophrenic treatment of Patricia reflected the muddled thinking within the SLA. Literally and figuratively, the comrades didn’t know what they were doing. But this non-strategy turned out to be a strategy itself, and so the body and the mind of their captive were whipsawed accordingly.



Monday, September 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst, excerpt one)

from American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin:

The kidnapping of Patricia Hearst is very much a story of American in the 1970s, not the 1960s. From the vantage point of nearly half a century, the two decades sometimes merge in historical memory as a seamless epoch of idealism and change. Generalizations about eras are necessarily imperfect, of course, but these two decades actually look very different in retrospect. The 1960s were hopeful, the 1970s sour; the 1960s were about success, the 1970s about failure; the 1960s were sporadically violent, the 1970s pervasively violent.

There were assassinations and riots in the 1960s, but the vast majority of protests were peaceful and even, occasionally, successful. After an extraordinary public outpouring from African Americans and their allies, official racial segregation, which had plagued the United States since its inception, faded in the 1960s. Men walked on the moon. The economy boomed. Much of the discontent in the 1960s emerged from a sense of possibility—that blacks and whites could live in harmony, that the Vietnam War could end, that there could be a better future for all. Those hopes, for the most part, were dashed by the 1970s. Ricahrd Nixon became president in 1969 and did not end the war. An oil embargo in 1973 led to gas lines. The economy stagnated. The stock market lost almost half its value between 1973 and 1974. Inflation hit 12 percent a year. Watergate confirmed every cynical expectation about American politics.