waco: How not to negotiate with believers

140331_r24790_p233Malcolm Gladwell at The New Yorker:

Not long after the Waco siege began, James Tabor, the Biblical scholar, heard David Koresh on CNN talking about the Seven Seals. Tabor is an expert on Biblical apocalypticism and recognized the Branch Davidians for what they were—a community immersed in the world of the Old Testament prophets. He contacted a fellow religious scholar, Phillip Arnold, and together they went to the F.B.I. “It became clear to me that neither the officials in charge nor the media who were sensationally reporting the sexual escapades of David Koresh had a clue about the biblical world which this group inhabited,” Tabor writes, in an essay about his role in the Mount Carmel conflict. “I realized that in order to deal with David Koresh, and to have any chance for a peaceful resolution of the Waco situation, one would have to understand and make use of these biblical texts.”

Arnold and Tabor began long discussions with Livingstone Fagan, a Branch Davidian who had been sent out of Mount Carmel early in the siege to act as a spokesman. Fagan was a Jamaican-born Brit, and one of the community’s scholars—a man known for greeting others with the very English “Hello, Livingstone Fagan here. Shall we study?”

more here.