Academic journal article Hecate

Nuclear Terrorists: Patty Hearst and the Terrorist Family

Academic journal article Hecate

Nuclear Terrorists: Patty Hearst and the Terrorist Family

Article excerpt

Introduction: Terrorist fiction before terrorist fact

Someone had kidnapped her and kidnapping always had a reason, however twisted it might be. Ransom, maybe, she reflected...the senator was a wealthy man and could be counted on to raise an immense sum to get his only daughter back...or maybe...She whimpered again, and her belly knotted and churned at the ugliness of the possibility that had come to her. Maybe...oh, God, not that...maybe it was one of those ritual things, with the `love children' planning to do their hideous thing against her as they had in Los Angeles against the Tate party and that other couple, or at Santa Cruz to that doctor and his family...(1)

In 1972, an obscure and shortlived San Diego publisher, Regency Press, released a paperback novel written under the pseudonym of Harrison James and entitled Black Abductor. Set in the immediate aftermath of the student uprisings of the late 1960s, when portions of the movement became more militant and went underground, the novel's plot traces the kidnapping of Patricia Prescott, the daughter of a wealthy, popular but conservative law and order politician by a campus-based terrorist group. Led by an embittered black man, the revolutionaries kidnap the drunk and dishevelled Patricia from her boyfriend's car late at night, leaving him badly beaten. The terrorist gang is loosely affiliated with the black liberation movement. On taking Patricia hostage, the terrorists demand the release of Bolivar Gunter, a comrade awaiting trial in prison for the murder of a National Guardsman at a student riot; the idea behind the abduction is the securing of Gunter's safe passage to Algeria `where the [Black] Panthers have work for him.'(2) The terrorists' original intention is to wait for the government to capitulate to their demands and then murder Patricia so that she won't be able to identify her captors. However, in the time that elapses between the abduction and the authorities' receipt of the first communique from the terrorists, the gang realises that `there was going to be time to kill while the establishment was running in circles, before they made up their minds that they were going to have to give in. Maybe it would be amusing to give this dumb broad an education.'(3) And so the revolutionaries, the well-hung black leader of the gang, his two white male sidekicks and a black lesbian, subject their captive Patricia, `the political ingenue with fairly conventional sexual experiences',(4) to a rigorous regime of `re-education'; a process that consists of her forced participation in a variety of sexual escapades `worthy of finely conditioned acrobats.'(5)

At first, Patricia resists the sexual advances of her abductors until, realising she is helpless, she resolves to co-operate in order to survive. However, her initial rape in the novel, as can probably be predicted, marks a moment not of victimhood for Patricia, but of sexual and political awakening. As the novel progresses, Patricia comes more and more to see the world through the eyes of her captors, and is progressively a more active party in her sexual education. As Angie, the only other female of the terrorist organisation remarks: `Shit, you act like you're a house guest instead of a hostage.... Christ Trish! You're sure as hell one of us!'(6) Indeed, as Al Ellenberg argues in the introduction to Abduction: Fiction Before Fact, `Patricia's sexual and ideological education is so successful, she literally becomes a member of the tiny guerrilla family.'(7) We should note here that Ellenberg refers to the terrorist gang as a family. Further, in Ellenberg's analysis, Patricia's membership of the terrorist family is bound up with her sexual and ideological education or, to be more precise, her re-education. I want to argue in this article that the idea of the terrorist family is key to understanding the threat of terrorism in Western modernity, and that this threat is constructed in the dominant narrative as both an ideological and a sexual one. …

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