The Cult Narrative and the Branch Davidians
Professor Catherine Wessinger
Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans
May 3, 2018
Catherine Wessinger, the Rev. H. James Yamauchi, S.J. Professor of the History of Religions at Loyola University New Orleans, spoke on May 3rd at Grainger Hall. Wessinger presented her research on the media’s depiction of the Branch Davidian community. Twenty-five years ago this April 19th, seventy six Branch Davidians died in a tank and tear gas assault on their home in Mount Carmel. The massive lose of life followed a 51-day FBI siege in which public attention revolved around the “cult” leader David Koresh.
Reporters and news outlets were actors in the complex event by disseminating the cult narrative about the Branch Davidians immediately before the ATF raid, throughout the siege, and after the fire. A number of reporters and documentaries continue to utilize the cult narrative as a simple, and often sensationalized, explanation of the events. Wessinger argues that sensationalized reporting on the Branch Davidians contributed to their dehumanization, and ultimately their deaths.