From: email@example.com (Steve Crocker)
Subject: Waco - a postmodernist view by Don Webb
Date: 8 Aug 1993 08:43:23 GMT
I found the following on the WELL gopher. While I have no particular
allegiance to post-modernism, I thought Don's article was interesting
and provocative and worth sharing here.
Ancient Wars with Modern Weapons
by Don Webb
Although no one asked for this, here are my thoughts on the Waco
Reasonable people can not fail to be outraged by the events
of April 19, 1993 in Waco, as well as by those of the preceding
51 days. What we witnessed was nothing less than a War of
Paradigms: The medieval world of the Davidians came face to face
with the modern one represented by the Federal Government. We can
learn much from observing the conflict.
A paradigm is a pattern of thinking which shapes the
subjective universe of the thinker. The shape of this paradigm
will also affect the way the subject looks at things in the
objective universe. How the subject looks at an object will often
determine how that object will in turn behave toward the subject.
All individuals operate from within paradigms of some sort. They
are usually fragmented and unfocused for ordinary people. The
unification and focusing of consciousness within a paradigm (or
complex of consciously interrelated paradigms) is a hallmark of
Initiation. Not only individuals, but also schools of thought or
Philosophies operate from within collective paradigms.
Additionally, each Age or Epoch of human history is governed by a
certain paradigm-- called a Zeitgeist by Hegel. It is worth
noting that such Epochs or Ages must be defined in regional
rather than global terms, because there is no evidence for
species-wide or global change when it comes to the paradigms
governing human history. In given cultural regions, however, such
as the one which might be called the "western culture," i.e. that
dominated by the western Indo-European linguistic heritage,
epochal paradigms can be identified and are useful in
understanding the essence of the network of subjective universes
which constitute the cultural group.
The medieval paradigm, which was the intellectually
established paradigm in European society from about 500 to 1500
CE, is based on the key-word faith. Faith is ultimately by
definition irrational. The Davidians were practicing a
world-view, or paradigm, based on faith. The modern paradigm is
on the contrary based on the key-word reason. This paradigm has
been the intellectually established one in western society from
about 1500 to the model of this century. Unfortunately most
would-be "modernists" are not very good practitioners of the
chief tool of their Age. Most are in fact hypocritical believers
grasping at the conceit that they are indeed "reasonable."
Nevertheless, what we saw in Waco was the conflict between these
two myths-- one which celebrates salvation through irrational
faith in a miraculous power the other which aims to "perfect"
society through the establishment and enforcement of rational
A war of paradigms comes about when two world views, each of
which can not tolerate the existence of the other, come together
in a single place and time. Something must give.
Apparently the Davidians first official crime was that they
had too many guns. Despite the fact that there is or was) no
evidence to indicated that any weapons had been obtained
illegally, there was sufficient speculation to prompt the ATF to
stage a Sunday morning raid on Mt. Carmel. Although this raid was
practiced by ATF men repeatedly at Ft. Hood in nearby Killeen,
and the alleged violation was that the Davidians were too well
armed, when the ATF stormed the compound they were obviously out
maneuvered by the untrained, inexperienced and only marginally
prepared "cultists." This leads me to conclude that although the
"charge" was to be "too many guns" the real belief of the ATF
going in was that there weren't all that many guns. It has all
the appearances of a typical government attempt to grab some
positive headlines-- in the fight against guns, cults and
all-around "weird thinking." (Note the timing of the raid: Sunday
morning, with camera crews brought along-- all aimed at
dominating the Sunday evening news broadcasts when there is
usually otherwise nothing much to report.) Of course, all this
backfired on the government when they found out (the hard way)
that the Davidians did have quite a few guns after all, and what
was more surprising to the ATF, I'm sure, is that they were not
afraid to use them!
From the beginning of the siege at Mt. Carmel, the Davidian
compound was treated as enemy territory. It was more like a
foreign or rebellious state than a "crime scene." This was
reinforced on both sides-- the Davidian flag flying over the
compound was conspicuous in its singularly "un-American" aspect.
While the ATF/FBI forces contended to the news media that they
were negotiating, trying to assure those inside that those
outside could be trusted-- by night the government used wartime
psychological operations (PSYOP) techniques against those inside.
The sounds of dentist's drills and that of rabbits being
slaughtered were broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the
night. These tactics can hardly have reasonably been intended to
cause those inside to "trust" the government officials! In fact
such tactics could have only been intended to cause someone who
the FBI had determined to be "psychologically unstable" to become
At no time was the wartime mentality of the government
officials more clear than in the final hours of the conflict.
When the tanks rolled into the compound on the final assault,
they flew American (Federal) flags. (This was apparently done so
that the Davidians wouldn't mistake them for Russian invaders, we
can reasonably suppose.) Also, once the whole compound had been
reduced to rubble, and the Davidian flag had poetically consigned
itself to the flames, the Texas Rangers, like the Marines on Iwo
Jima, raised the Texas flag on the flagpole to wave above the
(re-)conquered territory. (The next day the Yankees in the area
soon had our boys do it right by putting the "stars and stripes"
over the Texas flag.)
It is clear that throughout the conflict the Davidians were
thought of not as criminals or heretics so much as they were
thought to be an "enemy." All government pronouncements from
day-2 of the conflict forward must be interpreted in light of
Perhaps it was not entirely that way on day 1. In the
beginning of the situation it appears that the Davidians were to
be cast in the role of the "criminal-heretics." The ATF was to go
in on Sunday morning and, Rambo-like, overrun the
criminal-heretics and stand up proudly on the Sunday night news
broadcasts telling about how it was a dangerous mission but
someone's got to keep America safe. In the beginning the
Davidians were to be nothing more than the "straw-man" that used
to be set up in ancient warrior initiations. The straw-man would
be felled by the newly initiated warrior to boost his courage and
confidence in a ritual setting. When this straw-man stuck back,
the game was over and the war was on.
What can not be ignored are the "reasons" the ATF went in in
the first place. Based on "reports" they suspected that the
Davidians had acquired parts of weapons which, although legal to
buy individually, might be construed to be illegal if combined.
Sounds serious! Also (if that were not enough to mount a major
ATF mission) there were reports of possible child abuses. This
is, after all, a prerequisite part of any public relations
campaign against any group-- from ancient times to the present.
(There has been no actual evidence of such child abuse, only
"reports" from "experts" whose speculations can easily be turned
into facts in the minds of credulous government officials.)
The real reason why the ATF stormed the Davidian compound is
simply that they had reason to believe they had "too many guns"
and that the ATF certainly felt it could not only "get away with"
the raid from a public relations standpoint, but make enormous
"brownie points" with the public because of the ease with which
David Koresh and his followers could be cast in the role of the
"crazy cultists." Here was the government's chance to pull a
John-Wayne-style raid on an honest to god cult. (They study the
Bible more than once a week!) ( I was once asked if I believed in
the Bible -- Hell yes -- I've even seen one!)
Polls continue to show that at least in that respect the
government was right. There is no sympathy for Koresh and his
followers in the public at large. "Reasonable" citizens saw them
as kooks (they brought it all on themselves by being too weird),
while the "religious" masses saw them only as damned heretics who
deserved what they got. Here in Austin on the Sunday following
the final day, there was a protest gathering at the State Capitol
attended by barely a dozen people (from the Libertarian Party),
while in a nearby park a large crowd gathered to mourn the deaths
of the four ATF agents cut down by Davidian resistance.
At the time I am writing this there is no clear-cut
determination on who or what started the final conflagration.
What is clear, however, is that the government, from Clinton on
down, has a story all picked out. Don't worry, all "evidence"
will point to the conclusion already reached and tirelessly
promoted by the "spin doctors." We can only hope for more
objective investigations by outsiders to cast doubt on the
governments' prepackaged scenario: "Lunatic, child-molesting,
gun-crazy, murdering cult-leader kills followers and self in
bizarre suicide rather than face the courts for the unprovoked
killing of our fine, upstanding, churchgoing, taxpaying ATF
Objectively there seems to be as much evidence for the idea
that the FBI ignited the fire (by accident or intentionally) as
there is for the suicide story.
But whatever the facts of the events of the last day, the
conduct of the government for the preceding 51 days was clearly
designed to result in an outcome of the type which did transpire.
It is ironic, yet fitting, that a scenario which was begun
as a publicity stunt and media event by the government, would
end, like so many mindless and inane action-adventure or horror
films produced in the 1980s, with a fiery conclusion. Everybody,
including the head of the ATF, has sold stories to the highest
As a side-note I would like to point out that David Koresh in
every way fits the pattern of the gnostic, even Left-hand Path
style, "Christian" leader. (For background on this I refer
readers to to Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician and/or to
Benjamin Walker's Gnosticism.) I put the word Christian in quotes
because, although Koresh may indeed have been practicing what
Jesus actually preached, almost all people calling themselves by
that cult's name today found his teachings "confusing." They
could not understand his claim to "be Christ," especially when
this was coupled with the notion that being Christ was "no big
Koresh, or Vernon Howell, fits the biographical sketch of a
"Christ" as well. He was born the illegitimate son of a 15
year-old girl and a carpenter. Ultimately he was persecuted by
the secular authorities and eventually was killed, or ascended,
in his thirty-third year. As expected the authorities declared
one of the bodies to be that of Koresh, but given the track
record of the government in this affair the "escape theories" can
continue quite happily.
What ultimate conclusion can be drawn from these findings.
Has a former paradigm triumphed over a more recent one? The
answer remains hidden behind the third element. The fact is that
the events of the Paradigm War in Waco demonstrate the impotence
of both the medieval and modern paradigms-- because both are
essentially geared to play the same game, to fight the same kind
of war. We stand on the threshold of a new epoch which goes
beyond the collectivist totalitarianism of the medieval and
modern Epochs. The postmodern world with its lack of centralized
values can be the Epoch of freedom, provided that we find freedom
in individualist approaches, which are neither exclusively
rational or irrationally. We can look at Waco not to wonder
about what went wrong, but how we can each find and defend our
own freedoms as old beliefs systems fight old wars.