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.

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