“(Donald) DeFreeze made a Faustian bargain with the government. In exchange for his freedom, which proved to be short-lived, he agreed to run a violent purposely irresponsible false revolutionary group.”
—From “Revolution’s End” by Brad Schreiber
This tale only confirmed California’s reputation as a bastion for craziness.
A 19-year-old heiress, the product of one of America’s wealthiest families, is abducted by a left-wing revolutionary band of college-educated-suburbanites-turned-terrorists, led by an escaped convict and recent convert to Marxism. Within a couple of months, the kidnappers forward a “communiqué” via audio recording to a radio station, in which the victim proclaims her solidarity with her captors; denounces her parents; repudiates her past life of privilege leading to speculation that she’s been “brainwashed.” Two weeks later, videotape from a bank robbery features the captive wielding a military rifle, as an apparently willing participant.
Today, the saga of Patricia Campbell Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) have passed into the annals of pop culture legend, spawning scores of non-fiction accounts, a few novelizations, and a memoir by the central figure. Within the last seven months, two more books examining these events have been published, presenting differing accounts of the convoluted affair (both being written without the participation of Patty Hearst).
“American Heiress,” by Jeffrey Toobin, the more conservative of the two, provides a sympathetic view of the central character and her family. This latest tale (released this past August) comes on the heels of his previous tomes on scandalous public spectacles involving O. J. Simpson (“The Run of his Life”) and Monica Lewinsky (“A Vast Conspiracy”). “American Heiress” is all but certain to join the others on the bestseller list, and add to Toobins financial and professional largess.
“Revolution’s End” (August, 2016) by Brad Schreiber may well be the more intriguing, commercially appealling not-with-standing. In it, he follows up on the supposition, advanced in the past by other sources, that the SLA was an entity fabricated by the American government to disrupt the radical left. A coming-of-age story in the Bay Area during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, Schreiber took up the task of connecting the dots linking these seemingly separate events with the California Department of Corrections, state and local government, law enforcement, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Bay Area in those days was a cauldron of counter culture activity bordering on the melodramatic, and sometimes veering into tragedy. Protests against the Vietnam War occasionally turned violent, while the time-honored American bug-a-boo of race smoldered with periodic flare ups, via confrontations between Black Panthers and the police, and the systematic murders of innocent Whites by a rogue band of Black Muslims in San Francisco, circa 1973-74. Critics of the state’s vast prison system railed against inhumane conditions behind its bars, and the inequality of the legal system in general.
As Schreiber notes, discord reigned within the walls of the penal system as well. Between 1970 and 1976, 200-plus inmates died from stabbings, with hundreds more injured in the aftermath.
State officials, including then Gov. Ronald W. Reagan (1967-75), were alarmed by this widespread dissent, and took measures, legitimate and covertly, to neutralize these perceived threats. One of those targeted was educational reformer Marcus Foster, an Oakland school superintendent noted for his innovative approach and embrace of community involvement.