November 30, 2004


MOVIE REVIEW | 'GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST': Even in the Days of Patty Hearst, It Was the Innocent Who Died (STEPHEN HOLDEN, 11/26/04, NY Times)

What is familiar about this picture? A small group of fanatic terrorists wreak havoc on American soil. Playing an increasingly nervy cat-and-mouse game, they make fools of the F.B.I., which knows next to nothing about who or how many they are. Issuing communiqu├ęs whose language is as grandiose as it is inflammatory, they become the focus of a national mediathon. "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people!" is one of their favorite mottos.

No, these terrorists aren't members of Al Qaeda. They were a mixed-race group of radical leftists fighting against the Vietnam War, racism and other social ills in the 1970's. Based in the San Francisco area and calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army, they kidnapped the 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst on Feb. 4, 1974. They demanded a $300 million ransom in the form of food for the poor and needy. The Hearst family acquiesced. But when the first food giveaway caused riots in San Francisco, the plan was abandoned.

Ms. Hearst later announced that she had joined the radical group and adopted the name Tania. She called herself "a soldier in the people's army." Toting an AK-47, she participated in a robbery at the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco during which two bystanders were shot. Experts were called in to read her lips on the video as she shouted expletives.

She was arrested with three other S.L.A. members in September 1975, found guilty of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. After she had served 18 months, President Jimmy Carter ordered her release, and in 2001 President Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon.

These events, which have faded into obscurity in today's new and scarier age of terrorism, are recounted and brought to life in Robert Stone's remarkable documentary "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst." In retrospect the group's story is a painful example of the warped idealism of the radical left and its fateful romance with violence. [...]

After fleeing San Francisco for Los Angeles, the S.L.A. finally collapsed in a spectacular four-hour shootout with the police that was seen live on television. Crazy, outrageous and very sad, it all seems so long ago, and it accomplished nothing except the deaths of innocent people. That predatory insect, however you label it, is still very much alive and in a feeding frenzy.

Thanks to Mr. Schwartz who noted not just the elegaiac tone of this vile review but the fascist reference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2004 9:11 AM

That predatory insect, however you label it, is still very much alive and in a feeding frenzy.

That's a nasty thing to say about your employer, Mr Holden.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at November 30, 2004 9:23 AM

Why would the group's story be painful, unless it was also Mr. Holden's story?

Posted by: pj at November 30, 2004 10:28 AM

Gee, wonder why SS hasn't contributed to this thread?

Posted by: Mike Morley at November 30, 2004 3:21 PM

It's quite instructive to look back at such fevered lefty rhetoric. It would be good if the Michael Moores of today were reminded that the SLA thought Gerald Ford(!) was leading the US into fascism.

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 30, 2004 5:31 PM


Here I am. Now what?

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 12:24 AM

So, do you miss the SLA too?

Posted by: Mike Morley at December 1, 2004 6:15 AM

[crickets chirping]

Posted by: Mike Morley at December 1, 2004 1:17 PM

No. Do you miss the Klan? Tim McVeigh? Eric Rudolph?

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 3:05 PM

Well, maybe Eric Rudolph a little.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 3:08 PM

I'm sure he'd appreciate some fan mail.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 3:35 PM

I'm under a restraining order after the fruit cake I sent.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 3:44 PM

Eric really would like some venison and wild berries.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 1, 2004 9:28 PM