American Lori Berenson, middle-class Manhattanite turned foreign terrorist helper, was sentenced to life in prison in Peru in 1996 for housing Marxist terrorists of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), which took part in assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings during the 1980s and 1990s. Berenson let them use her apartment as a storehouse for ammunition. Standing before police, she exclaimed in Spanish: "There are no criminal terrorists in the M.R.T.A. It’s a revolutionary movement!"
Novelist Jennifer Egan interviewed Berenson in Peru over several months as she shuttled between parole and jail before being freed for good, and came up with a 8,300-word portrait for Sunday’s upcoming New York Times Magazine (It was posted online Wednesday).
Michael Calderone got a sneak peek at the cover shot of the newly revamped magazine, an image with her son that John Podhoretz at Commentary calls "consciously designed to make Berenson look like the Madonna with child."
Egan, a discerning fiction writer, brought none of that perception to this profile. Instead Egan found excuses for Berenson’s notorious outburst and terror ties, trying to put M.R.T.A.’s leftist political violence in context, offensively referring to a four-month hostage ordeal as the terrorist group's last "big idea," and chalking up Berenson’s own involvement to positive personal characteristics like her ability to “absorb fear and discomfort.”