After Waco

I finished watching Waco. Now I’m depressed. I knew about the story from other TV shows like Law & Order and X-Files, which existed to whitewash the FBI after Ruby Ridge and Waco. But I obviously wasn’t around when it happened, so I had no idea how bad it was.

Now isn’t a great time to watch this series unless your mental health is really hardcore strong. One doesn’t want to give in to any facile analogies but it’s hard not to.

If you were around and followed the news in 1993, what did you think about what happened at Waco? Did your opinion change over time?

17 thoughts on “After Waco”

  1. WACO was total bad news. US government overstepped and killed a bunch of citizens. I will never trust ATF or FBI ever again. Can’t remember which agencies… I am 64. I was completely pissed off when it happened. Media treated it like just another day at the office for those rotten corrupt power hungry agencies.


  2. “If you were around and followed the news in 1993, what did you think about what happened at Waco?”

    I was in Poland at the time with very meager direct news access (pre-internet etc) so I was kind of… removed from the whole thing. When I went back to the US that summer in late June the friend I stayed with (incredibly smart and politically progressive) had been completely freaked out by the events (Waco they barely knew about Ruby Ridge at that time).
    One of the worst aspects for this friend was that it was a Democratic president that did it. Part of their response was to seek out voices that were as disturbed as they were, which at that time was mostly right wing. This friend usually hung with marxist-lefties but they were pretty meh about it all.
    They listened some to Rush Limbaugh (that didn’t last) and then began listening to the initial version of radio conspiracy culture buying a special radio for that since you couldn’t receive the broadcasts on regular AM/FM units.


    1. IMHO, WACO (April 1993) was, along with the murder of Clinton’s long-time friend Vince Foster (July 1993), the deep-state tip off to Clinton that he could not pursue historical Democratic party policies. ( As if JFK, RFK, and MLK weren’t enough notice) He took the message to heart, for sure. And as they, the rest is history. I had hopes for Clinton as he was George McGovern’s Arkansas 1972 campaign director, but even then Hillary Rodham was clearly not a good influence, with objectives and policy preferences of her own. I thought there was some chance once Clinton got to D.C. with a then Democratic party controlled Congress, that some of the Reagan years could be reversed. Didn’t happen. This is within my adult recollections.


  3. I was an adolescent at the time. It was a REALLY BIG DEAL. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the BATF, and everything I heard about it made me think it was both evil and incompetent, and I couldn’t imagine why we even had such an agency. Janet Reno and Lon Horiuchi were basically Satan, as far as news coverage in my very-red part of the state. Militias were popping up all over the place, gun sales skyrocketed– this is where the prepper thing really got its start. People tend to remember it as Y2K, but it was the early 90s, after Waco and Ruby Ridge. I remember there being how-to guides around everywhere, about how to properly bury weapons and ammo caches without getting moisture damage, and how to unobtrusively mark the spot so you could find it again. A LOT of people were totally convinced that Bill Clinton was on the verge of suspending local governments, cancelling elections, declaring martial law, and becoming dictator for life. I mean, if a government agency could just wipe out 80+ innocent citizens and have the total support of both media and the judicial branch… then they could do anything couldn’t they? It felt very dangerous.


    1. “this is where the prepper thing really got its start. People tend to remember it as Y2K, but it was the early 90s, after Waco and Ruby Ridge”

      Nohting starts suddenly. It had been percolating a while underground… when I worked at a small newspaper (mid to late 1970s) we got tons of unsolicited mail including a bunch of rightwing craziness. We always got the Spotlight (which everyone seems to have forgotten). Since I’ll read anything I scanned through it. It was racist and anti-semitic and nasty so I mostly discounted it, but it was also the first mention I’d seen of the tri-lateral commission and the Bilderbergers. We also got a copy of the Turner Diaries… which I read about two sentences of before dropping it like a hot potato.

      As far as I can tell it began in the 1950s with the John Birch type thing, coldwar atomic paranoia (I remember class time devoted to fallout shelters in elementary school) and maybe UFO craziness. Later the JFK conspiracy stuff got started – in order to understand that event researchers began looking under the rug in Washington and freaked out.

      Bill Cooper’s Behold a Pale Horse (which I’ve never read) also hugely important in building the…. intellectual? cognitive? infrastructure for the movement that came into public view after Waco…


  4. I vaguely recall that attitudes broadly changed when the Oklahoma City bombing happened 2 years later. Up to then I heard a fair bit of opinion that was generally critical of government overreach/incompetence. After Oklahoma City, opinion shifted sharply to “these anti-government militias are bunch of murderous kooks who will kill us all if they’re not shut down”. It pretty much eclipsed Waco in the public mind.


    1. OKC definitely put the kibbosh on the militia movement. It wasn’t that OKC eclipsed Waco, it’s that it was directly related (bombing was on the 2-year anniversary of the Waco fire), and in some circles seen as FBI retaliation against the militias.

      True or not, OKC was widely believed to be an FBI infiltrate-and-entrap scheme gone horribly wrong. The theory went that the FBI was out to get the militia movement (this was true– everybody knew there were informants and FBI plants, and mostly knew who they were), and that they hit jackpot with McVeigh: a man crazy enough to be prodded into real criminal action. OKC definitely changed public opinion about the militias enough that most people were no longer willing to be involved, as it would hurt their reputation.


      1. Wow, this is fascinating. Now I need to find more about the OKC bombing. I only know the most basic stuff. But I had no idea about the Waco connection.


        1. “I need to find more about the OKC bombing”

          That’s called jumping in the deep end…. it’s interesting stuff but also easy to fall into spider holes….


          1. Cliff’s not wrong. At the time, I knew people who were involved in the local militia. I got to hear ALL the Alex-Jones- level conspiracy stuff. To this day, I couldn’t say with confidence that any of it is either true OR complete rubbish. It’s like looking at JFK-assassination theories. Rabbit hole to perdition.

            But what I was hearing out of the local militia lent some credibility to the FBI-provoked-OKC theory. I was told that after the initial flush of militia enthusiasm, where everybody at meetings was someone you knew, or knew of, getting together for a cookout and target practice… the inevitable crazies turned up. And with them came the undercover types. You could tell who they were, because when the token loony started agitating for “doing some damage” or “we gotta get them before they get us” or somesuch, all the normal people would be talking that guy down. But then there’d be that one guy (who was nobody’s neighbor)… egging him on. That guy was Mr. FBI. Even before OKC, a lot of them were realizing that eventually, no matter how conscientious they were, Mr. FBI was going to get Crazy Eddie drunk some night and talk him into blowing up city hall… and they were all going to get investigated and have their reputations and families and bank accounts ruined for it. Some left. Some started having separate meetings and not inviting Mr. FBI and Crazy Eddie. After OKC, whatever was left just dissolved.


        2. I was in an AOL chat room when I heard about the OKC bombing.

          There’s an extremely famous photo of a fireman cradling a child that was all over every publication. You can’t see her face, only that her body is bloodied and covered in soot from the bomb blast. She isn’t wearing shoes. On site at the building was a day care center, and Baylee Almon had just turned one.



  5. I knew about the story from other TV shows like Law & Order and X-Files, which existed to whitewash the FBI after Ruby Ridge and Waco.
    L&O exists to whitewash police.
    The X-Files existed to feed the febrile imagination of conspiracy lovers who believed the government was hiding something, which you would know if you ever watched the show.

    The FBI clearly fucked up by misreading a…hostage situation? I didn’t pay much attention (because I wasn’t a newshound then) but there was coverage of the cult’s perverted sexual practices with quotes in news magazines.


  6. I thought at the time both that Koresh was nuts and that the government overreacted. I haven’t really changed from that general view. I would have to study it and Koresh did need to be dealt with, it just seems that there had to be some better way


  7. Not an American, but: After 9/11 I was researching 90s terrorism in the US, and noticed that the Waco siege began two days after the first bombing of the WTC. So I figured that the siege was launched as a distraction by the new Clinton administration, to get the bombing out of the news.


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