After a meandering start, Paramount Network’s six-part mini-series, Waco really kicked into gear once the actual siege began to play out. The series went from strength to strength, culminating in a powerful finalé entitled Day 51.
I recently wrote that the first two episodes suffered from being both co-written and directed by one man, John Erick Dowdle and that the third episode, Showtime benefitted greatly when Salvatore Stabile was brought in to write.
While that remains true, John Erick Dowdle must be applauded for performing both duties (co-writing with his brother, Drew) and directing the sixth and final episode, Day 51.
I could talk at length about Dowdle’s often heavy-handed, occasionally sublime writing but what struck me most about this series was what I mentioned in my first review – that retelling true stories must contain fresh information and offer a new perspective. And boy, did Waco open my eyes.
WHY IT’S A WRITERS JOB TO TELL THE TRUTH
I remember the tragedy unfolding on the TV in 1993. The stand-off, the fire, the loss but I had no idea of the lies and rewriting of history that took place in the media at the time and in the aftermath.
What the mainstream media didn’t tell us is that the FBI engaged in psy-ops (psychological warfare) against American citizens who just wanted to practice their version of Christianity and had broken zero to minor laws.
The media was also negligent when not telling us that the FBI’s act of knocking the compound down with tanks broke US law and filling the compound with tear gas contravened The Geneva Convention.
After all was said and done, the denouement showed a talk show radio host recounting the FACTS as a montage of archive footage details just some of the numerous times the FBI had used tear gas in siege situations. Time and again, they had watched on as CS gas turned to fire, buildings became engulfed and people died.
The FBI stated the Branch Davidians had purposefully started the fire but at no point did in 51 days had David Koresh nor any of his followers demonstrated any desire to commit suicide. In fact, over a week before Day 51, the Branch Davidians had surrendered and were on their way out just as soon as Koresh had finished transcribing his message from God.
Yes, that sounds crazy, but there is nothing in American law that stops people practising what they believe. There’s nothing that states the military should be called in to search for rifles. The FBI and the media painted Koresh as a gun-toting, paedophilic, child-abusing, insane cult leader hell-bent on taking as many of his followers with him.
He was not. Koresh was no Marshall Applewhite. This was no Heaven’s Gate UFO cult that believed they’d be reincarnated behind a comet.
He was no Jim Jones. This was not Jamestown, this was Texas.
After the fade to black, by way of text, we are informed that the FBI lied and did use incendiary flash-bang grenades during the assault.
Yes, the Dowdle’s scripts were possibly too sympathetic to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians but they were based on books by surviving Branch Davidians and the main FBI hostage negotiator.
The FBI’s actions caused the death of 76 American citizens, including 25 children that fateful day in 1993. They were not evil actions, but they were rash and preventable and The Bureau should be held accountable.
Waco was not a perfect series but it showed why film and television is so important. While most movies and shows merely entertain, both media can make you sit up, take notice and question what you’ve been told by the mainstream media and history books.
That’s why we write. To tell the truth. Because they won’t.