Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Kidnapping, coercion, and mind control: Jill Carroll, and the strange case of Patty Hearst (Part II)

[Part I can be found here.]

About a month after being photographed with a gun at the Hibernia bank robbery and then coming out as the chic revolutionary "Tania," Patty Hearst participated in still another crime. This time she covered for shoplifting SLA members Bill and Emily Harris at a sporting goods store, spraying gunfire from a car outside, allowing them to escape as Patty screamed obscenities. Witnesses said her cooperation was full and she did not seem to be coerced--and, in fact, there were indeed moments when the Harrises were in the store committing the robbery that Patty was alone in the car and had an opportunity to escape, an opportunity she did not take. It seemed that her conversion was for real.

The next day, the majority of the members of the SLA died in a shootout and fire in Los Angeles. It was thought at the time that Patty was among them. But forensic evidence proved otherwise; she had not been there, and was now on the lam.

Another tape--which I believe proved to be her last--was issued, in which she said:

I died in the fire on 54th Street, but out of the ashes I was reborn. I know what I have to do.

A little over a year later an emaciated Patty Hearst was taken into custody, and a few months after that she was put on trial and found guilty despite--or perhaps because of?--her defense by celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey:

What really hurt her case, in Patty's estimation, was Bailey's closing argument. As he grabbed his notes, she could see that his hands were shaking and his face was flushed. She had the impression that he'd been drinking. His comments to the jury were rambling and irrelevant. Then he knocked a glass of water off the podium and the water hit his crotch. For the rest of his closing, it appeared that he'd wet his pants. Later Patty was to write about how jury members giggled: "It was, to say the least, distracting." To make matters worse, he had flown each evening to Las Vegas to conduct a seminar, and had then flown back for the trial. It was the feeling of many that Bailey's inability to make a forceful statement, whether he was exhausted or inebriated, decided Patty's fate.

There were other irregularities in the trial, in which Patty was sentenced to twenty-five years (later shortened to seven). The brainwashing defense was poorly presented and poorly understood, and most of America didn't buy it.

But brainwashing is by far the best explanation of Patty's behavior, despite the verdict. Here are some of the many ways in which Patty's treatment by the SLA greatly resembled brainwashing (from a Saturday Evening Post article around the time of the trial; the events in parentheses represent what actually happened to Patty):

1. Confinement under inhuman conditions to lower resistance (such as being kept blindfolded in a closet for 57 days).
2. The insistence on confession of past misdeeds (such as being raised in a privileged family).
3. Manipulating confessions into the context of the ideology (Patty had it all while many people are starving). The confession becomes self-criticism.
4. Telling the person that his former society had turned against him (Patty was told that her parents would not meet the ransom demands).
5. "Undeserved" liberties are granted commensurate with the person's conversion, which makes the person grateful to his captors. (She denounced her family on tape.)
6. The person's weakened physical state and feeling of shame and inferiority merge into a bond with the captor. (Patty joined the SLA in their criminal activities.)
7. Captors prove their sincerity by using the same tactics on their fellow prisoners. (Patty took part in a bank robbery and helped two members elude arrest.)
8. Even upon returning to society, the person will experience confusion and doubt. (She exhibited this behavior.)}

...In addition, Patty had some clear disadvantages. She had no training in these tactics, she was young and vulnerable, she'd been protected most of her life, and she lived among college students who articulated anti-establishment values. There's no reason to doubt that she had been under duress sufficiently traumatic and manipulative to produce the shocking behavior for which she was on trial.

The list leaves out another important method of humiliation and manipulation used on Patty after her kidnapping: she was repeatedly sexually abused by her captors.

Patty's sentence was commuted by President Carter after she had served twenty-one months (and President Clinton later pardoned her). Shortly after leaving prison, she married her bodyguard and went on to live a rather conservative--and security-conscious--life as wife and mother in Connecticut, as well performing as sometime actress in a few small movie roles.

Patty--now Patricia--also authored a book about her case. Those who believed her to be guilty thought it a self-serving apologia, but those more inclined to believe the brainwashing theory (such as myself) found it mostly convincing and coherent. Among other interesting points I recall from her book was the fact that, early on, she knew she was guilty of bank robbery from the initial Hibernia heist, which was documented by camera. So had she tried to turn herself in at any later time, she was convinced that her innocence would not have been believed, but that she would have been convicted of the crime. Still later, when the fatal fireshoot and fire occurred, she realized that the police in fact had not been interested in protecting her, since they had assumed she had been in the house that had burned. She was not only fully brainwashed by then, but she felt that there was no turning back even if she had wanted to; if she did, she would most likely be found guilty and imprisoned. And later events certainly supported that perception.

There are some similarities and also huge differences between the Hearst case and that of Jill Carroll. Carroll is a young woman, but she's a good deal older than Hearst was at the time. But, more importantly, Carroll's situation seems to represent a case of simple coercion by political kidnappers who threatened her in order to make a political point, and to create a set of videos that could be successfully used as propaganda. Hearst's kidnappers were far more ambitious in their aims: theirs was a purposeful, systematic, and remarkably successful program to brainwash Patty Hearst and to use her both as propaganda and as an actual accomplice in their cause.

These days Patricia Hearst Shaw seems both straightforward and insightful in interviews that describe both her particular state of mind long ago and the general attitudes and experiences of victims of brainwashing. As such, she still has important things to tell us.

Here is Patricia describing her mental and emotional changes during that first tumultuous year after the kidnapping (from a 2002 Larry King interview):

KING: A brain-washed person doesn't know from time element when they're being brainwashed, do they? They don't wake up one day and say, I have been brainwashed?

HEARST: No. No, they don't. They -- I know for me, I thought that I was kind of fooling them for awhile, and the point when I knew that I was completely gone, I'm quite convinced, was at the Mel Sporting Goods Store when I reflectively did exactly what I had been trained to do that day instead of what any sensible person would have done or person still in control of their senses and their responses, which would be the minute the Harrises had left the van to have just run off and called the police.

At that point, you know, looking back, I can say that I was gone. I was so far gone I had no clue how bad it was.

Patty is well aware that many still think she's guilty, and that her brainwashing claim is a transparent excuse. And she thinks she understands why they might feel that way:

CALLER: Hey, Ms. Hearst, I would like to know, have you ever felt guilty being a part of the SLA and how do you handle the fact that so many others think you are just as guilty?

HEARST: You know, when I first was arrested and first going through the therapy with the psychiatrist because I did feel really horrible. And I -- it was the kind of guilt that was -- a lot of it stemmed from feeling so horrible that my mind could be controlled by anybody, that I was so fragile that this could happen to me.

And because really we all think we're pretty strong and that nobody can make us do something if we don't want to do it. That's true until somebody locks you up in a closet and tortures you and finally makes you so weak that you completely break and will do anything they say. And there was the feeling of guilt and self- loathing and despair and pain that was just overwhelming.

And in terms of people still thinking that I'm guilty, you know, the government spent an awful lot of time trying to convince people of that. So how can I blame them?...

Jill Carroll's case is not the only recent one that has brought Patty Hearst to some people's minds. In the same interview with Larry King, Patricia Hearst Shaw was asked to compare her case to that of the American Taliban, John Walker, who some saw as resembling her. She herself saw a different resemblance:

KING: Do you have some sympathy for John Walker?

HEARST: I had to think for a second. The...

KING: The American Taliban.

HEARST: OK, well, frankly, I mean, I think you have another case of someone who went looking for trouble, who politicized themselves, wasn't finding enough trouble where they were and went looking for it. I have heard people say it reminds me of the Patty Hearst case and I think it reminds me of my kidnappers. That's what it reminds me of.

And here is a portion of the interview that has some relevance to Jill Carroll's (coerced) remarks about how she had been treated while a captive:

KING: Were any of these people [the SLA], to you, likable?

HEARST: You know, yes, sure. It gets to degrees of who's likable when you're with people who are causing mayhem and placing bombs and doing robberies. There are always some people that are more likable than others. It's hard to say. You know how when people have been held hostage, one of the first questions they get asked is, how were you treated? And the answer is almost always I was treated, you know, pretty well. And by that, they usually mean they weren't killed.

Patricia Hearst Shaw seems remarkably stable today, and exhibits rare insight and perspective into the state of mind of the brainwashed kidnap victim, although some reject that explanation of her acts even to this day. I think it's quite clear, however, that she didn't choose that unconventional and horrific period of her life; it was thrust upon her, and she appears to have ultimately adapted rather well to her re-entry to "normal" existence--although her life would never again be really normal.

My guess is that her husband (and former bodyguard) represents a figure of great stability and support to her, a person who bridges her former trauma and her present calm. It's no accident she married her bodyguard, I would guess; he may have represented the one person able to protect her.

Because, when one actually thinks about it, no one else who should have protected her was able to do so: not her parents, not her boyfriend at the time, not the police, not the court system, not the expert witnesses, and not her lawyer (the best money could buy). In the end, she had to learn the hard lessons herself--and one of those lessons was that many will never forgive her for what she did. But I think she's at peace even with that.


At 12:37 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another quirk during the trial: If I remember correctly, Patty stayed at the family estate (not in "Hearst Castle" or any of the guest housesthere , but different quarters near by) at times during her trial. The SLA attempted to bomb one of the guest houses while she was there.

At 1:06 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember what the SLA actually wanted? Not from taking Patty hostage, but in general?

At 1:09 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

I have mixed emotions about Patty Hearst. On the one hand, she was clearly "brainwashed". On the other hand, I don't accept the argument that her kidnapping and brainwashing makes her not responsible for _any_ of her subsequent actions. I think that kind of reasoning goes to a point, but not to an unlimited point.

I was reminded of this because, as you may recall, several surviving SLA members were arrested and re-arrested a few years ago, and linked to the fatal shooting of woman in a bank in Carmichael (suburb of Sacramento) in 1975.

Every single one of these individuals -- some who had been on the lam for decades -- were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their part in the robbery/shooting, even though only one person pulled the trigger, and that person admitted it was a mistake. Fine.

But Patty Hearst was in on that robbery/shooting as well. And nothing happened to her, how could it, she had been pardoned by Clinton. Also, after the shooting the family of the woman murdered received a large amount of money from the Hearst family.

The whole scene just doesn't sound quite right to me.

At 2:52 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

So had she tried to turn herself in at any later time, she was convinced that her innocence would not have been believed, but that she would have been convicted of the crime.

That's a partisan trick. It's a very good method to recruiting guerrila warfare operators. It is one of the reasons the Coalition's effort to separate and amnesty the softcore from the hardcore, was so effective. If you killed an America, you're out in the cold, but if you're just compromised a little bit, come back.

I know for me, I thought that I was kind of fooling them for awhile, and the point when I knew that I was completely gone, I'm quite convinced

That doesn't work without partitioning your mind. Meaning, either through meditation or self-hypnosis, hide away your integral identity deep within your mind. Cooperate with your consciousness, but keep your REAL identity buried deep where they can't get to it. Basically, get schizophrenic. Have two personalities. It's quite possible to do it to yourself. People who live under communism understand quite well how to compartamentalize their minds. Instead of compartamentalizing the party line, you compartamentalize your basic identity, the core things that make you who you are. It could be anything from a high school crush, an optimism, or a belief in a value.

She was getting into the habit of obeying her captors, it seemed. Her personality was becoming used to obeying commands. Either she had to punish herself for obeying commands, in a way that her captors didn't notice, or she had to split her personality. But she didn't know, she didn't know that eventually habit will make it so much easier for her to obey than to resist, to the point where she will obey unthinkingly. The military trains troops to do the same thing, obey unthinkingly in a time of danger, for the good of the company.

The Pavlovian Response to Stimuli seems to be quite complicated in humans, but still it works the same.

a lot of it stemmed from feeling so horrible that my mind could be controlled by anybody, that I was so fragile that this could happen to me.

One of the disadvantages of not having military family members. The college friends didn't help either, I surmise.

Presidential pardons never sound right, because Presidential pardon is a Constitutionally effected balance of power that is designed to overrule the Legislation and the Judiciary if the Executive believes that justice is not being committed. In a way, it is overturning the rule of law and th rule of judges.

Because it is an execute right, many people see it as aristocracy. Although when the pardon is not being used, the rule of judges come into full force.

At 3:04 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Alexandra said...

Fascinating story Neo, loved both the parts..couldn't put it down.

At 3:45 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Joan said...

Thanks so much for this two-parter, Neo. It was brilliant. Also, I want to say I especially appreciated the short time between publication of the first and second parts!

At 4:13 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See note below on John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, mentioned in neo's post. The article is damning. Lindh cannot be rationalized as a misled kid comparable to Patty Hearst.

Quite simply, in my opinion, Lindh was a terrorist, a member of what we call al Qaeda, and a man who chose to stay with killers even though he was afforded numerous opportunities to separate himself from his murderous associates. Twenty years in jail may be a blessing compared to how many of his friends have been dealt with since.

At 4:22 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite possible to do it to yourself. People who live under communism understand quite well how to compartamentalize their minds. Instead of compartamentalizing the party line, you compartamentalize your basic identity, the core things that make you who you are.

Interesting comment. I was quite interested in the psychology of cults and cult members a few years ago, and did some reading on it. Steven Hassan, a man who was "deprogrammed" out of the Moonies, talks about this phenomenon of compartmentalizing and "splitting" at some length, emphasizing that the first step to getting someone out of a cult is to reactivate the core personality under that imposed by the cult leaders. For him, it was the sight of his father's tears that accomplished this.

At 5:45 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The SLA considered themselves leaders of "the Black Revolution," although the only black person in the little band of thugs was the leader.

Interestingly, the seven-headed hydra they used as their mascot stood for seven "principles," which were later adopted intact by Ron Karenga when he cooked up Kwaanza.

At 6:54 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger jlbussey said...

Fascinating subject. But once one has "split" themselves in self defence, how do they re-integrate themselves if they can't reach and/or remember that core personality?

At 7:25 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

See note below on John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, mentioned in neo's post. The article is damning. Lindh cannot be rationalized as a misled kid comparable to Patty Hearst.

I got curious about this. The article is preposterously badly written, it is as if the author wants to assure us his gonads are the size of grapefruit.

In fairness I would direct the curious here and here.

Overall, one screwed up teenager from a screwed up family, and the situation is not totally clear. I sense there might have been a little hysteria here, not surprising, considering the time and place he was captured.

At 8:50 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Megan said...

Absolutely fascinating. I am one of those not old enough to remember this case...I wasn't even born yet! LOL It really is fascinating!

Neo...When oh WHEN are you going to write a book? You could be the next ann rule (she's the one who does the true crime books right?). :)

At 10:20 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger LTEC said...

In 1967, when George Romney was running for the Republican presidential nomination, he asserted that he had been "brainwashed" by American generals into supporting the Vietnam War. The public found this laughingly ridiculous -- which it was -- and he was forced to drop out of the race. After that, "I was brainwashed" became the punchline of many comedians' jokes.

I think it was partly because of this that many people, including me, unthinkingly (and incorrectly) rejected Patty Hearst's claim that she had been brainwashed.

At 2:01 AM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who fight back (flight 93, Quatrocchi) have reached the point of realizing that it's life or death- there's no more room to hope for a reprieve.
What we need to do to stop the kidnapping trade and propaganda machine is not broadcast ANYTHING to do with them. The media are essential to the effectiveness of, and thus complicit in, the commision of the crime. No publicity, no reason to kidnap, except perhaps money, but that's always risky to the kidnapper. It's not the kidnap victim that is the problem, it's the media.

At 6:48 AM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This case is currently troubling Columbia. Colombian politician has love child with her guerrilla captor
"Clara Rojas, who was running for vice-president to the French Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt when they were seized by left-wing Farc rebels four years ago, reportedly gave birth to a boy, now two years old, after a consensual relationship with a Farc guerrilla."

Am I the only who grew up with stories of Quanta Parker's mother? A Texas Ranger was only able to recognize her as a captive by the color of her eyes. Some of the women and children who were abducted in Indian raids assumed the identity of the captors. (With children it was understandable but it occured with young women.)

At 12:52 PM, April 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent conclusion to the first part of your brainwashing post. It reminded me of something I read in Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven." The book is ostensibly about a brutal murder in 1984, when two fundamentalist Mormons (which basically revolves around polygamy) killed their sister-in-law and her daughter. Krakauer, however, uses the book to look at the history of Mormonism, at the rise of fundamentalists devoted to polygamy, and, in that last context, at Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping. Her story, albeit with the crime wave, is remarkably similar to Hearst's. She was kidnapped and sexually abused, all the while being preached to about the fact that her kidnapper was himself a prophet and her former life and evil example of Mormonism gone wrong. She'd been raised in any event to believe in prophets through her faith. As a result, she too failed to make any effort to escape and, when she was finally found, she vigorously refuted her former identity. Because of her age, and because she was not kidnapped as part of what appeared to be a world wide revolutionary upheaval amongst the young (1974 was a trying year), people could easily recognize what happened to her -- a recognition denied Patty Hearst.

At 2:27 AM, April 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Fascinating subject. But once one has "split" themselves in self defence, how do they re-integrate themselves if they can't reach and/or remember that core personality?

Self-hypnosis and visual reactivation. Find something, an image or a word describing something that you cherish above your own life, above pain and death. Then use that as a key in your mind, when you lock away your identity. If your mind just shuts down cause it has taken too much damage, then no, you don't get to choose the unlocking key. It works like this. Only for that person, thing, image, value would you bring yourself out of hiding, to face what is out in the dark of void. Nothing else can bring you back, nothing else would be worth risking what you were trying to hide from. Elizabeth Smart looks at her father with something akin to adoration. Most teenagers don't have that look, that intense look of love and concentration. But I saw it, when she was interviewed by Hannity. Attach your hope to someone you love, and then hide the key. From yourself. This ain't no party trick, however. It takes more than will power, it takes intense psychological pain and desperation. In most normal cases, your brain doesn't shut off cause something bad happens. But we can be most assured that patty hearst's and Smart's cases aren't normal.

Like the people who said "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country"

The Japanese actually said that, those exact words in fact ; )

At 12:19 PM, April 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Patty Hearst in part because of my own experiences. When I was 11 I was forcibly abducted by a stranger (he had a knife and gun) and molested for several hours. At first he thought I was a girl (I had long hair then), but when he found out differently he didn't seem to mind much - though it did change what would have surely been full-blown rape to second-degree molestation.

Anyway, pertinent to this post: I quickly went into a shocky, auto-pilot mode where I cooperated readily and even told him I enjoyed it (nothing could have been further from the truth!). When he was done he let me go with a threat and coerced promise not tell anyone, ever.

Seeing how readily I cooperated after such a short time, I can only imagine in horror that victims of prolonged, severe torture and abuse would do. I cannot fault anyone who cooperates with brutal captors. Very few of us are "tough" enough to resist such to the point of death.

Especially galling was my friends' macho insistence that they would have done all sorts of heroic things to disable or escape from him.

Ironically, I never did tell my parents or anyone in authority - a source of "what-if" and "what-else-did-he-do" guilt to this day.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger