How to negotiate with believers


The original subtitle was “How NOT to negotiate with believers.”

“Gosh, after you put the bible verses in that light, it’s clear I need to turn myself in to face child molestation and statutory rape charges.”

Is that what would have happened?


I briefly visited the compound a few months before the ATF raid. Though my contact was limited, it was definitely an armed compound, with rifles on the ramparts and an unwillingness to meet with strangers. They also had a history of intragroup violence, culminating with a shootout when Koresh needed to cement his leadership of the organization.

Not that the government didn’t brutally bungle the siege – heads should have rolled by the bushel in Congressional hearings – but the Branch Davidian leaders were on a literal hair trigger before the ATF raid. The tragedy is that so many innocent (or at least deluded) group members and all of the children were caught between a thuggish, militarized government and fanatical, millenarian cult leaders.


True believers of ANY flavor tend to be dangerous. Diversity in thought is just as valuable, and perhaps even more so, than diversity in personnel. . .

The New Yorker article is substantially about why this line of thinking, justifiable as it is, justifiable even in its sarcastic scoffing at religious nuts’ sincerity, set up the negotiators for failure at Waco.


Here’s where the Gladwell kicked in, unfortunately. He recasts them as a kind of eccentric commune with a dodgy gun-upgrade business. It’s weird because it doesn’t even help his point about the need to take seriously the worldview of the people you’re negotiating with, to get the desired outcome.

But it’s obviously a very Gladwell thing to do, so there you go.

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I look forward to his next book, “Cult: The Power of Believing Without Thinking.”

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For what it’s worth, SPLC has put out some literature for police on how to recognize and deal with another sometimes-dangerous kind of believer – that being the “sovereign citizen” types. Some of the same principles might be applicable.

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I read the entire article and I wanted to find something convincing in it, that if only they had let David koresh complete his responsive religious text the tragedy would be diverted. Alas, at the point that I read the the person who was providing most of the narrative had allowed his 14 year old daughter to be “married” to David Koresh and that for some reason this act was allowed to slide in order to get the rest of the story, I stopped believing that some attempt at communication could be effective with this group. Sorry to be so “judgy” and I agree there was a total disconnect in the excerpts I read, but I was not convinced that by putting someone on the phone who could speak their Revelation lingo that anyone would be living now. It seemed to me that they would have simply turned to the text and found yet another excuse not to negotiate.


There’s an important difference between taking the Bible seriously, and taking it literally. But if all you know about religion comes from TV, the only flavors are Catholic and Snake Handler.


Different reality tunnels.

We’re asked to believe that the feds were negotiating in good faith, they just misunderstood their targets. I might believe this were a botched operation, if there weren’t so many holes in the official story.

I always found it very suspicious that the fire was so completely contained within that compound, in weather that makes grass fires so dangerous. The feds scraped the ground bare all the way around the compound, leaving nothing flammable. When asked to explain this, they told us they were clearing cover that the people inside could use to shoot from behind.

This was just on the day of the fire. As the aftermath wore on, it just got worse. But I’m not a truther- I don’t think that it would make one jot of difference one way or the other if the truth about this seige got out, we can’t afford to entertain the idea that law enforcement would behave that way, no matter what the evidence.

I can’t read a story like this without facepalm.

The FBI didn’t even need to negotiate. They could have just camped outside the compound for as long as it took for the people inside to run out of food or get bored enough to give up, it’s not like they were posing an active threat to anyone else.


Shaka, when the walls fell!


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gladwell’s books – the Harlequin Romances of research.

But I did enjoy this Koresh quote: “I’m like a Dixie cup that God will crumple up and throw away when he’s done with it.” Um…Mission Accomplished?


In this episode, Malcolm Gladwell shallowly reads and is duped by apologist for a violent cult, Clive Doyle, and offers advice based on this.


You’re just not thinking like a policeman. Each day the Davidians were in there, gave lie to the idea that the cops were in control. They weren’t endangering any public outside the compound, but they were endangering the legitimacy of the police state. In the end, it was the cops who finally caved, and decided they “didn’t have time for this”.

It’s essentially this other story, scaled up by an order of magnitude:


Whhat if Koresh WAS the second coming, and the Lizards had him whacked? Eh? Eh?


Right. Because only a nutter would believe that the cops might misbehave…