Waco, circa 1993

You get a lot of stupid assignments in journalism, mainly because a lot of editors have no imagination. They also have a herd mentality, i.e. if others are doing it they have to do it, too. Even if their resources would be better spent doing something original.

Thus I wound up sitting and sleeping in a cold car during much of the February to April ’93 Branch Davidian standoff, in a long line of similar cars on a two-lane back road occupied by similarly bored journalists similarly assigned to be part of the totally similar herd. The only break in the scrum blockaded front and rear by the state police was to leave the car now and then and go hang out with the TV guys in their heated satellite vans.

Fortunately we were too far away from the BD compound to have to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus sing Achy Breaky Heart, which the FBI insisted on loudspeakering into the compound hour after hour in a weird attempt to break the religious fanatics from their biblical fanaticism. Fat chance. We also were too far away even to see the ball of fire and the boiling black smoke when the compound finally went up and killed all those kids who were supposedly the whole point of the federal siege.

Reading this old Larry McMurtry piece brought it all back. The waste of time. The cold. The boredom. The impossibility of learning anything that everyone else didn’t already know. It’s one reason I consider myself a recovering journalist. And gratefully at that.

5 responses to “Waco, circa 1993

  1. You know I’m still conflicted by that event. But one thing still holds true to me, if you can’t defend yourself from an armed assault regardless of it’s provenance then what’s the point of your existence?

  2. Overkill, at best, still is my take on the FBI/ATF federal siege. Their brethren attacked and were beaten off and the siege ensued. Their excuses never held much water and in the end they gained nothing except putting Koresh out of business, along with his core followers—the adults who had a choice, and the children who didn’t. The FBI/ATF reputations pretty much died with them, a process which had begun at Ruby Ridge the year before.

  3. It’s still my poorly informed (like that matters) opinion that the ATF attempted the arrest of Koresh in the most stupid, arrogant, way possible. All they really had to do was pick him up on one of his many trips into town.

  4. That’s true. Something like it was said at the time and the logic hasn’t changed. Cops just prefer drama, playing soldier without the boring parts.

  5. “It’s still my poorly informed (like that matters) opinion that the ATF attempted the arrest of Koresh in the most stupid, arrogant, way possible. All they really had to do was pick him up on one of his many trips into town.”
    You’re absolutely right JD. I also think the Administration was playing political pr to it’s base (look at us whup up on these evil right wingers) with the eager cooperation of the media. I think they were the most surprised of every one when it went south on them the way it did and so publicly.