If that title sounds harsh, by all means watch the Netflix true crime documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight.” Otherwise, I’m not sure the ordeal is worth it, since it may throw you into a depression from which you never recover. That’s where I am now.
With the nation facing what might be—“I do believe in people, I do believe in people,” he says in his best Cowardly Lion imitation—an existential election, I really did not need any more reason to despair of the life competency deficit and declining mental state of the nation’s voters. In fact, I decided to watch “Abducted in Plain Sight” to take my mind off of The Big Stupid, with its ongoing efforts by the news media to keep Americans ignorant of the Biden scandal, the brain-melting tale of the Zoom adventures of He Who Must Not Be Named, and polls that seem to show that most of the American public is incapable of paying attention to matters that will effect their lives, family and nation.
Big mistake. What watching the 2017 award-winning documentary did was vividly remind me that normal, decent, religious middle-class Americans like those you live and work with may well be too moronic and irresponsible to be entrusted with children, never mind make decisions about leadership and public policy that will affect the rest of us.
Directed by Skye Borgman, “Abducted in Plain Sight” relates a tale from the early 1970s in Pocatello, Idaho. Bob Broberg, a florist, and Mary Ann had three daughters, among them Jan, a 12-year-old girl whom their friend Bob Berchtold (known as “B”) seemed unhealthily obsessed with. In the 90-minute documentary, Jan, now grown, her sisters and her stunningly matter-of-fact parents explain how they allowed “B” to kidnap her (twice) drug, brainwash and rape her. In October 1974, Berchtold, who had already concentrated sufficient attention on Jan to make what I once would have called typical parents to call the cops, offered to pick Jan up from her piano lesson and take her horseback riding. They disappeared. The Brobergs were going to call the police until Gail Berchtold, Bob’s wife, asked them not to. Oh! All right! No need to make a fuss! So Jan’s family—you know…morons— waited several days before notifying the FBI that their adult friend had disappeared with their little girl, and even after calling the Feds had to be convinced that Berchtold’s taking their daughter and not notifying them where they were was something to be concerned about.
In the course of this disillusioning exposition, we learn that Berchtold had targeted other young girls, and had been reprimanded for doing so by the high council in his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Naturally they took no further action to protect the community or his future victims. The documentary also feature’s “B”’s brother sitting like a giant slug and telling the filmmaker with a smirk that, yeah, ol’ Bob was a pedophile, all right, and his family knew it from his teen days. But that was just the way he was, ya know?
I think my favorite part of the story is when “B” explains to the Brobergs that his psychiatrist has prescribed a treatment that involves spending nights sleeping in the same bed with their 12-year-old daughter. “Oh…Ok!” is the couple’s response. “Neither one of us was comfortable with him doing it,” Mary Ann says, “but it was his therapy.”
“I want to kill these people,” I told Grace while we watched this horror unfold.
There is more, much more, to explode heads, like the repeated failure of judges and the penal system to lock Berchtold away and throw away the key. He was still stalking Jan long enough for her to get a lifetime restraining order against him decades after he had her convinced that she wanted to have his baby. Jan grew up to experience a relatively normal adulthood—well, she’s a professional actress anyway—and, incredibly, doesn’t blame her parents, but I do, and in fact, as the film went on, my disgust with them was only marginally less than my contempt for their pedophile pal.
This nation was founded by an amazing alliance of geniuses who somehow reached the conclusion that a healthy and successful society could be created by the collective judgment of a public far, far—and after watching this films, I have to add at least one more “far”—FAR less capable and educated than they were. For over two centuries, their crazy scheme worked remarkably well, but the Brobergs, combined with what I’ve read from my Facebook friends and winessed over the past year, have me wondering if we’ve just been very lucky. I think people like the Brobergs may be the majority in America, and not the anomalies we would hope they are. That would explain the success of people like Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden, the Clintons, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and so many more, as well as the power wielded by organizations like the two major political parties, CNN, the New York Times, the NFL, movie studios, and our universities, and the existence of local governments like, well, most of them.
I’d like to think that the Brobergs are freaks. I’m beginning to fear that they are the typical 21st Century Americans.