Saturday, February 26, 2011

11. My Search for Patty Hearst by Steven Weed

I've always held an interest in the various phenomena that marked the end of the '60s, where the cultural movement got really dark. That whole period, sort of kicked off by Watergate, is just so fascinating, culturally and politically. The establishment was probably at its most retarded in the history of America, while the young radicals were also amazingly stupid. And right in the middle was Parker, kicking everyone's ass—oh no wait, I'm in the wrong review.

I picked up this book for a dollar because I thought it might be an interesting read. Steven Weed is the ultimate cuckold, the rational, sensible young white professor whose pure heiress fiancée got kidnapped, brainwashed and eventually turned out by the ultimate revolutionary black cock. I admit to having a slightly prurient, almost mocking, interest in hearing his perspective. Surprisingly, the book far exceeded my expectations and turned out to be both a very thoughtful introspection on his psychology as well as a detailed and accurate history. I don't know if credit is to Steven Weed himself or his ghost writer Scott Swanson, but a real effort was made here to detail all the craziness that went down during the period between Patty's abduction and the shootout of most of the SLA 3 months later. It makes for a fascinating read.

I am not too aware of all the context surrounding the publication of this book, but it's clear that Weed was trying to defend his reputation. So it should be approached with some skepticism. The Hearts ended up distancing themselves from him. He botched several media interviews. He published the book while Patty was still on the run and then added this bonuse chapter after her trial, so it does look like an opportunity to cash in. That being said, he does an excellent job of portraying himself as a victim, but ultimately one who comes to terms with what happened, while not hiding over any of his flaws. You do feel sympathetic for him, but he doesn't milk it or seem to feel sorry for himself. You get the sense that he was more just blown away by what was gong on. Imagine, your fiancée is brutally kidnapped from your house and you get the shit beaten out of you. You first think it's a simple hostage case after a break-in. Then you think it's for money because she is the heiress of a famous wealthy family. Then you get this communiqué from these freaky crimino-revolutionaries making these insane political demands. And then the final straw when she joins them and starts parroting their garbled revolutionary bullshit and claims you are a sexist, ageist pig. He was only 26 years old! I think it is a testimony to his basic stability that he didn't go completely bonkers. I'd be curious to hear another perspective, but I think another point in his favour also is that he seems to have completely disappeared from the limelight. The only thing I can find is that he is a real estate agent in the Bay Area.

But back to the book. One example of the detailed history that I hadn't expected was the recounting of the chaos that was the People In Need food drive. One of the SLA's demands was that the Hearst family donate $400 million worth of food to the poor. Instead, they donated $4 million and tried to create a system for buying, sorting and distributing to the food, hiring experienced administrators from Washington state and affiliating them with a wide range of local churches, political organizations, community groups, criminals and just everybody. Because the distant voice of DeFreeze in his political communiqués (sent via tape to the local media through a black church) was weirdly driving the whole thing, all these groups had a lot of power. Plus, it was the 60s in the Bay Area, which was just a total free-for-all when it came to these kinds of things. I mean you think PC thought can cripple getting things done today, you need to read this account. The first food drop turned into a total riot. By the end of the program, they did manage to get a lot of food out, but the waste, chaos and theft that went on in between is just a perfect demonstration of the vast gap between vague political ideals and actually getting something done. Steven Weed volunteered for four days during the last drive and you get a first-person eye view on it.

I know what I've written so far portrays the radical left as being profoundly naive and incompetent (or just criminal) and they were. But the undercurrent throughout the whole book is also the utter incompetence and disconnectedness of the establishment at the time. The FBI completely blew this case. They had absolutely nothing but bullshit and bluster. (Their rhetoric during this case sounds eerily similar to the garbage we get from Homeland Security about "terrorism" today, which should tell us something about how much they actually know.) Particularly hilarious is the part where they bring in an expert to interrogate Weed right after the kidnapping. He is an expert on "marijuana addiction" and asks if any of the attackers had a yellowish tinge, as that is a dead giveaway of said addiction. Straight out of a Freak Brothers comic. Patty's parents, especially her mother, were completely out to lunch. The cops, for the most part, seemed more concerned with harassing people and being dicks than actually investigating. The "establishment" just had absolutely no idea what they were dealing with on all levels.

I was a little kid in Oakland when all this was going down, completely oblivious. But my parents must have been following along, so I'm quite curious to hear their perspectives on the matter.

11 comments:

Buzby said...

I really like this period too, nice review.

Anonymous said...

Hearst should still be in jail.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That's the kind of comment that would come from an anonymous, yes.

Jerry D. Fallbrook, CA. said...

I am doing a paper on a court case in Florida Papachristou v City of Jacksonville and it seems to bring back memories of the Patty Hearst mentality andnot having solid convictions regarding society. Ultimately, swept up into the revolutionary drama of the seventies. This case went to the US Supreme Court, I wonder what happened to Weed?

OlmanFeelyus said...

Thanks for the comment Jerry.

My mother had mentioned that she had heard that he became a realtor and had still been working in the Bay Area back in the 90s.

Anonymous said...

"various phenomenon" is in the first sentence. I couldn't read past that. "Phenomenon" is a singular noun. I guess you would also write "various person" or "various souffle" ...

My supposition is that my comment will not be "approved by the blog author."

Anonymous said...

Steven is now married to one of my high school chums. Patty's kidnapping was such a huge part of my youth and what a nightmare for Steven. I look forward to reading the book.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Hey grammar anonymous, your comment is posted and the error shall be fixed. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Patty was widowed a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record; the kidnapping of Patty Hearst took place in the mid 1970's not the 1960's.

OlmanFeelyus said...

As I say in the beginning of my review, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst represented the end of the "60s" which as a cultural period started chronololigcally in the mid-60s and ended in the early/mid 1970s.