How Patty Hearst Went From Kidnapping Victim to Armed Guerrilla

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped from her Berkeley, CA apartment by members of an urban guerrilla group called the Symbionese Liberation Army. Two months after she was abducted Hearst— the granddaughter of the real life “Citizen Kane,” publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst—had joined the SLA, adopted the the name “Tania” as her nom de guerre and was robbing a San Francisco bank with a M1 carbine. Hearst’s kidnapping and subsequent conversion riveted the nation—Was it Stockholm Syndrome? Brainwashing? The last gasp of sixties radicalism?

In October of the next year, Rolling Stone featured an explosive cover story, “Tania’s World: An Insider’s Account of Patty Hearst on the Run.” Below is a short excerpt from Howard Kohn and David Weir’s account of her life as a fugitive with the SLA, detailing her moment of conversion:

Patty was shown a long list of the Hearst family holdings — nine newspapers, 13 magazines, four TV and radio stations, a silver mine, a paper mill and prime real estate. Her parents clearly were part of the ruling elite. That’s why they had quibbled over the ransom money. That’s why they had handed out turkey giblets instead of steaks during the food giveaway that the S.L.A. had demanded. Money meant everything to the economic class of her parents. And the only power that could fight that money was the power that came out of the barrel of a gun. It was a political philosophy that had bored her when Weed and his doctoral student friends had discussed it in their Berkeley apartment. But Cinque’s rough eloquence was more persuasive than the abstract talk of graduate students. The S.L.A.’s motives made sense. They wanted to redistribute the Hearst wealth to more needy people. It was her parents — and the economic class they represented — who were to blame for her misery and the misery of countless others.

The S.L.A. members encouraged her radicalization. They hugged her, called her sister and ended her loneliness. Patty’s conversion was as much emotional as political.

Seven weeks after she was kidnapped, Patty asked to join the S.L.A. Despite their new respect for her, most of the S.L.A. soldiers were opposed. Patty would deprive them of mobility because her face was so easily recognized. She could not be counted on in emergencies. She did not have the guerrilla training the others had.

But Cinque wanted her to become a comrade in arms.

Read the story