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Poor Decisions at Waco Essay

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Poor Decisions at Waco Neither the Branch Davidians, nor the ATF, nor the FBI, were composed of or led by stupid persons. Yet at Waco, all of these groups made extremely bad decisions. One reason for the high-risk, low-quality decisions of the Branch Davidians, ATF, and FBI is that these groups of intelligent individuals could collectively make decisions much worse than the individuals might have made if they had decided alone. Many of the factors leading to groupthink were present, on all sides, at Waco. First, in groups that are vulnerable to groupthink, group members tend to value the group above everything else. The social isolation of law enforcement officers from the non-police community has been documented by many…show more content…
Conversely, the FBI and BATF stereotyped their adversaries as "cultists," and acted as if resistance to the armed might of the government were inherently immoral. Groupthink tends to produce self-censorship among the dissenters, as when FBI behavioral psychologist Peter Smerick changed his memos to support the aggressive "tactical" approach that his superiors wanted. Groupthink is more likely to occur in a provocative situation with high amounts of external stress. In these situations, groupthink is especially likely when the members of the group have little hope for better solutions than those proposed by the leader. The attractiveness of the Branch Davidians' alternative to Koresh--surrendering to the FBI--was greatly undermined by the government's treatment of the adults and children who did surrender.[124] Deindividuation results in individuals becoming less self-aware, and more inclined to go along with group decisions. Rather than taking personal responsibility for their own actions, de-individuated people see responsibility as diffused, and placed on the group as a whole. The diffusion of responsibility leads to more aggressive behavior towards outsiders. Some social scientists believe that an important factor leading to deindividuation is anonymity, and at least at Waco, the results were consistent with this theory. Except for Koresh, the Branch Davidians were thoroughly
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