Today in 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a US-based radical terrorist group. They held her for nearly two years and in that time, through the use of isolation, sexual assault and more, they brainwashed her into siding with their organization.
When she was captured in 1976, her lawyers could not use brainwashing as a viable defense, a fact that appalled many people, and she was jailed for 35 years for the crimes she committed while a member of the gang.
Jimmy Carter later transmuted her sentence to time served, plus severe parole conditions. Bill Clinton pardoned her in 2001.
The more fascinating part of the story is the brainwashing. This is a known effect: The Stockholm Syndrome, where captives eventually identify with and come to love (in a way) their captors.
Stockholm syndrome is named after the robbery of Kreditbanken in Stockholm, Sweden, in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to 28, 1973, while their captors negotiated with police. During this standoff, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. (Wikipedia – link)
So Patty Hearst’s “brainwashing” had historical precedence, but not within the US and therefore couldn’t be used as a defence. Hearst’s kidnapping stands as one of the most famous examples of the Stockholm Syndrome…but it’s certainly not the last. Alas.
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