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A Psychiatrist Looks at Patty Hearst

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The parents of Patricia Hearst have turned to many sources in their attempts to retrieve their daughter from the murderous, self-styled Symbionese Liberation Army. Prominent among them has been Dr. Frederick J. Hacker, Professor of Psychiatry and Law at the University of Southern California. The 60-year-old Vienna-born specialist in forensic psychiatry, who heads the Hacker Clinic in Beverly Hills (and nearby Lynwood), is president of the Sigmund Freud Society. The Hearst family sought from him some explanation, first of the kidnapping, then of Patty’s behavior. Last week he discussed psychological aspects of the case with Barbara Wilkins of PEOPLE.

Why did the Hearsts consult you?

I had published a book on terrorism in Germany in 1973—dealing with the Olympic tragedy in Munich and the Arab-Israeli situation. In September ’73, I became a negotiator in Vienna between the government and two Arab terrorists. After that, I was invited to speak at Harvard and the State Department and to testify before the House Committee on Internal Security. That was how the Hearsts heard about me and my work.

When did you get involved in the case of Patricia Hearst?

When a Mr. Gould of the Hearst newspapers called me up, on behalf of the family, about four weeks after the kidnapping. I went up to Hillsborough to visit the Hearsts. I told them to take the SLA at face value, to take the political message seriously. And I urged them to get a concession for every concession they made.

What have you discovered about Patty Hearst?

I had not known her before, of course. By now everyone has read what her life had been. She was an average, intelligent girl. She lived an unspectacular life with her former tutor. She was more liberal than her family but was still relatively conservative. She was totally without political interests. She was sheltered. She’d gone to Europe with some other girls and, prior to Steve [her fiance Steven Weed], she’d had three or four other boyfriends. She was never very close to any of her sisters. The oldest sister, a polio victim, had deep religious convictions. Patty had a bad relationship with her mother, but a fairly good one with her father. They could talk. When she was kidnapped, Patty was picking out her silverware pattern, because she had talked Steve into marrying her.

What is the lure of the SLA for a girl like Patty Hearst?

In spite of everything, the sense of close proximity among these people gives a feeling of family, of community and caring. There is shared danger and a sense of strong commitment that is very impressive to the uncommitted.

Was Patty’s conversion voluntary?

Everybody asks how voluntary her conversion was. I raise the question, “How intentional was the SLA’s conversion of Patricia?” Maybe they didn’t want to convert her at first. Let’s look at it this way. She’s kidnapped, and she’s frightened and inclined to believe these people are really monsters. Then they treat her very nicely. She begins to talk to them, to the girls. She finds they are very much the kind of people she is—upper-middle-class, intelligent, white kids. She finds a poetess, a sociologist. They tell her how they have found a new ideal and how lousy it was at home. Perhaps she started to think, “Well, at my home it wasn’t so hot either.” This may be what happened. There is a strong possibility, of course, that she was brainwashed. Maybe they did use drugs, although none was found in the bodies after the L.A. shoot-out.

Were you surprised at Patricia Hearst’s conversion?

I did not discount the possibility. I predicted that sometimes strong bonds form between captors and captives. Even in the short period usually involved in a skyjacking we saw this happen between stewardesses and hijackers.

Do you believe Patty Hearst’s conversion is real?

Yes, I do believe it. I think this was the result of brainwashing, or rather “brain impressing.” To convert someone, you don’t clean the brain out. You put something in it. The brainwasher impresses his victims with his own superior fanaticism and honesty.

Could there have been a sexual factor in Patricia’s apparent conversion?

In any intensely close relationship, sexual elements can never be excluded. One or two of the women were recruited on the basis of their ties with Mizmoon [Patricia Soltysik], not with Cinque [SLA field marshal Donald De-Freeze]. Mizmoon at one time had a sexual relationship with Cinque, and, of course, Camilla Hall was Mizmoon’s lover.

Who was actually in charge of the SLA?

Some leaders were women. One of the crucial members was Mizmoon. She was the propaganda leader and the closest to Cinque, from the very start. I don’t know if he was actually the leader. Nobody else knows either. Possibly Mizmoon helped Cinque to recruit people because of her Lesbian inclinations.

Was Patricia in on the kidnapping from the beginning?

She was undoubtedly a genuine victim. All the talk that she was in cahoots is nonsense. All the evidence, in fact, is against it, including the testimony of her boyfriend, who has no conceivable reason to lie. Why did she have her identification with her? A kidnap victim doesn’t—unless someone else grabs it and takes it along.

What makes a terrorist?

A number of different things. Usually the terrorist is imbued with the righteousness of his cause, and fanatacized by the idea of remediable injustice. For example, as long as you could tell women that it was God’s will that they were mistreated by men and that it was irremediable, there was no movement to change things. As soon as it becomes clear that an injustice is not fated, is not obligatory, and that there are alternatives, then the dominant group is in trouble.

Are there different kinds of terrorists?

I distinguish three categories—the criminal, the mentally deranged and the political. With the SLA, it is not easy to confine them to one category. They are criminally involved because some of their tactics are criminal. Some actions are loony and the details are ludicrous. When Cinque’s body was found, he was wearing heavy pants, army boots up to his calf and three pairs of woolen socks—in Southern California where the temperature was 80°. He had a compass and a canteen. That’s inappropriate. They stole from that sporting goods store, but they certainly did not need the money. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars were found on all the bodies. Only the outside of the folded money burned. There were nutty elements. What kind of an army is 20 people, or 10 people? They were also political, and that is what made it so hard.

These radical movements seem to attract middle-and upper-middle-class children rather than the lower-middle-class and poor. Why?

You are asking who becomes a revolutionary. The leaders of a revolution don’t come from the class they are trying to liberate. The to-be-liberated group doesn’t have the means to lead itself out of oppression.

What can be done about terrorism?

First, you must change the “remediable” conditions that produce the terrorist solution—for instance, somehow you get rid of the Palestinian refugee camps. Second, the mass media must effect restraint so that terrorist crime does not become fashionable. Finally, I believe we must establish task forces led by law enforcement executives who are advised by responsible behavioral scientists.

Is there any way that Patricia might be induced to return to her family?

I think the chances that she will immediately and directly return to her family are very remote. Let’s face it, she’s in legal jeopardy. She would have to have a psychiatric defense. There is no other.

Could Patricia make an adjustment to her old life?

That’s so speculative, but it doesn’t seem likely. This whole extraordinary business is undoubtedly the climax of her career, and people won’t let her forget that.

And what would Steven Weed’s feeling be if Patricia returned?

I’m sure he would want her back. He claims this behavior is not at all like her. He claims they had a very good relationship over two-and-a-half years, presumably with perfect bliss on her part. According to Steven, she wasn’t a girl who was looking for anything, she had already found it.