Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No.2, 2021
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

waco and beyond



Anthony Merino, renowned independent art critic, has published over 70 reviews. He is a ceramic artist and has lectured internationally on contemporary ceramics.
Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre
absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste.

Certainly anyone who has the power to make you believe
absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.


July 20th, 1995, the day that changed American Politics forever.

Kiri Jewell, 14 at the time, provided testimony to the congressional hearings on the Branch Dravidians standoff in Waco. From February 28, 1993 -- April 19, 1993, agents of the federal government engaged in a standoff to arrest charismatic cult leader David Koresh on weapon charges. The standoff ended in 82 Branch Dravidians and four Federal agents being killed. Up until Ms. Jewell’s testimony -- Koresh was fashioned into a flawed martyr for the American right. He fit the roll in two ways. First, Koresh was considered a religious leader. The Clinton Administration’s assault was another example of how the American left was openly hostile to any but the most milquetoast expressions of Christianity. Second, the N.R.A. was just beginning to become radicalized. The images of black clad federal agents crawling over roofs and attacking a group over something as trivial as weapon charges --emboldened this vision.

Jewell killed that narrative. She detailed Koresh’s systematically raped young girls as young as 10 years old. She explained that Koresh would systematically indoctrinate young girls into sexuality by forcing them to watch violent and explicate movies including 1987 movie Hamburger Hill that includes a rape scene. He casually talked about each of his ‘wives’ performance as sexual creatures. Leading up to her description of being raped by Koresh, she stated:

David took me told me to come and sit down by him in the bed. I was wearing a long T. Shirt and he kissed me and sat there but then he laid me down he took me and rubbed it on the outside of my vagina while he was still killing me, I had known this would happen sometime, so I just laid there and stared at the ceiling.

In 10 minutes, Koresh went from being a martyr to monster.

The Republican party had done an exceptional job of reframing public opinion over the Waco siege. In an April 18, 2018 article The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research showed just how effective the Republicans were at changing the narrative around Waco. ABC did a series of polls looking at how the Federal Bureau of Investigations handled the standoff in Waco. On April 21st, 1993 70% of respondents stated that they approved of the FBI’s actions; 27% disapproved and 3% did not know. In only two years public approval of the FBI had cratered. A CBS poll showed that only 42% of people approved and 40% disapproved, with 18% did not know.

This was rather remarkable because while not widely reported -- several stories of Koresh’s molestation were reported. Additionally, on Jul 14, 1993 Waco Tribune-Herald writer Mark England reported autopsy results of three Dravidians showing that they were shot a point-blank range –

But autopsies performed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office show that Perry Jones, 64, died by a bullet from a gun inserted into his mouth; Peter Hipsman, 27, in addition to other bullet wounds, suffered wounds from a gun placed at the back and side of his head; and Winston Blake, 28, died from a shot fired at close range behind his right ear.

The most logical explanation was that the men were wounded during the standoff but instead of allowing the men to leave and get medical attention, Koresh either had them executed or had them take their own lives. Both details lead inescapably to the conclusion that there was no peaceful solution. Koresh knew what he had done. Knew if taken into custody -- e would be condemning himself to a lifetime of incarceration, scorn and abuse.

Whatever bad acts the Federal government engaged in during the siege on Waco, ultimately, the only peaceful resolution would have been to move away and effectively concede victory to David Koresh. In an interview with Frontline, retired FBI agent Byron Sage observed: “This guy is not delusional. He is not a Messianic complex. He does not buy off on his own con.” This was a bit of an epiphany. Koresh was an extremely evil narcissist, who was using the siege to delay what would be his day of earthly judgment.

Ironically, American Politics had changed -- because nothing had changed. James Ridgeway, in an August 8, 1995 article in The Village Voice predicted a change that did not happen:

The argument that what Koresh was doing was his business and nobody else’s will get any politician, Christian right or other, firmly clobbered in the polls.

The lionization of Koresh was one of the seeds of the American far right separatist movement. Ridgeway failed to calculate that Wayne LaPierre, the president of the N.R.A. and Newt Gingrich, Republican Speaker of the House, simply ignored the fact that Koresh raped girls. Koresh may have been the seed of the movement, but they treated him as an infected branch, once pruned to be ignored forever.

The most maddening aspect of this ability to cleave the martyr from the message -- was that the message inspired the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the United States on April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. McVeigh wanted to exact revenge on the Federal government for the outrages of Waco. Effectively, McVeigh killed 168 people because the F.B.I. dared to arrest a serial pedophile for owning too many guns. The lie inspired McVeigh to the point that the lie no longer needed a martyr to infest the public imagination.

This dynamic plays out today. A second big lie undermines American security. On January 20, 2021 Reuters/Ipsos published a poll showing 61% of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump. Like in the mid-nineties, several members of the Republican establishment buttressed Trump’s fiction, most notably Senators Rand Paul (TN), Ted Cruz (TX) and Josh Hawley (MO). In explaining his opposition to certifying Biden’s victory, Senator Cruz reinforced Trump’s big lie by framing it as certification is the true threat to democracy. Cruz cited polling data that stated 39% of American’s believed the election was rigged. Cruz suggests investigating the rigging of the election as the only way to regain trust. This is a rather disingenuous claim. The only thing establishing an investigation would do is validate the claim that there was something to investigate. Senator Paul offered the same argument. He backed up Trump’s big lie, with a smaller lie. In a January 24th interview on This Week, Paul stated “Most of the cases were thrown out for lack of standing.” By most, he should have said one. The case dismissed for this reason was a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, State of Texas v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State of Georgia, State of Michigan, and State of Wisconsin. Effectively AG Paxton was arguing that the rulings made by the other states had to be approved by his office. Hawley has moved forward using Trump’s big lie to motivate people to give him money. He asserted that his vote against certification only served to “to give their own voters a hearing.” This allows him to not directly support Trump’s lie but validate the victimhood of Trump supporters. All three senators understand what Gingrich knew: white victimhood is great politics. If a lazy, vulgar and entitled buffoon like Donald Trump could parlay white victimhood to the White House -- then disciplined, sober and industrious politicians like themselves should easily be able to surf the wave to a 2024 nomination.

One difference distinguishes Trump’s lie from Gingrich’s. Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole and Gingrich could not have imagined the Oklahoma City bombing. The next Timothy McVeigh is out there, and he, like McVeigh, will be utterly convinced of the righteousness of his actions. The Oklahoma City bombing was unimaginable. Now, in large part thanks to politicians like Paul, Cruz and Hawley, the next terrorist act seems not just imaginable but inevitable.




Email (optional)
Author or Title

Thank you very much for the insight. Even Benjamin can be wrong sometimes.








































































































Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


Help Haiti
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2016 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 05-16st, (514) 844-2172
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal World Film Festival
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis