(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Today is the 30th anniversary of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms beginning its infamous siege of a religious compound in Waco, Texas, which ultimately resulted in four dead ATF agents and 82 murdered civilians, including 25 children and two pregnant women.
The ATF and FBI’s criminality at Waco is well documented. As author James Bovard explained in a Monday article for the New York Post, the ATF’s operation “was a sham from the start.”
But what allowed ATF and FBI agents to kill innocent Americans with impunity? This is perhaps best explained by PhD historian Wendy Painting in her book, Aberration in the Heartland of the Real.
Aberration shows that the U.S. government was able to publicly dehumanize the Branch Davidians—an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists—at Waco as a “dangerous extremist organization” and a “cult.”
Painting explains in her book that the government was able to disseminate these claims about the Branch Davidians by colluding with a shady lobbying group called the Cult Awareness Network, which in turn spread disinformation throughout the media. As Painting notes, the Cult Awareness Network, or CAN, is closely linked to the CIA via the late psychologist Dr. Jolyon West, a former CAN member who also worked on the CIA’s MKUltra mind control program.
According to Aberration, ranking members of the CAN acted as consultants to the ATF and FBI during the siege. CAN spokespeople also appeared regularly in the media—spreading false stories about the depravity of the Davidians and publicly urging the FBI to use lethal force against them.
“In response to a growing public outcry and criticism about the massive military buildup at Waco, Attorney General Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton capitalized on the moral panic generated by CAN and repeated the unfounded claims and outright lies to the American people,” Painting writes in Aberration.
“In doing so, they further demonized the Davidians and largely neutralized criticism about all manner of illegalities that had already, and were about to, occur in Waco.”
Along with spreading disinformation—including the unsubstantiated claims that Koresh was abusing children at the Waco compound—the labeling of the Davidians as an extremist cult may have underpinned the FBI’s decision to use psychological operations against the group, according to Aberration. Psyops, supposedly used in an attempt to draw the Davidians out from their compound, included blasting sounds of dying rabbits and flooding bright lights into the compound for days on end.
Far from succeeding in their purported goal, CAN’s tactics “aided the FBI and ATF’s dehumanizing disinformation campaign against the Davidians and reinforced the unfortunate perception that the events at Waco had been necessary and the deaths there inevitable,” according to Painting.
Thirty years later, the ATF still labels the Davidians as a cult on its website, and the dehumanizing claims about the victims at Waco are still widely repeated in the mainstream media.
The U.S. government also continues to use the same dehumanizing labels it foisted on the Davidians 30 years ago—deeming homeschoolers, COVID vaccine skeptics, certain religious organizations and other dissident groups as potential “extremists.” In fact, a leaked DHS bulletin from last year warns that the Waco massacre is one of the “significant events” referenced by modern anti-government “extremists.”
And as they did 30 years ago, the U.S. government and its sycophants justify events such as the killing of Jan. 6 protestor Ashli Babbitt, the lengthy pretrial detention of other Jan. 6 defendants and the mass surveillance of political dissidents on the grounds that the victims of these abuses are extremists.
In his Monday New York Post article, Bovard wondered whether the mainstream media will ever recognize that current anti-government sentiment was fueled by events such as Waco.
But in order for the mainstream media to do that, they’d have to admit their own culpability in slandering dissidents—from the Branch Davidians to current political groups—as extremists.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.