One Week Until Marketing The Messiah

I just realised that a week from today I’ll be attending a screening of Marketing The Messiah in Melbourne. Here’s a story.


Around 2004, I went to see the documentary THE CORPORATION. Towards the end of the film there’s a scene with director Michael Moore where he talked about how he makes films that oppose what corporations stand for but they distribute his films anyway because they don’t believe anyone will do anything about the things he says in his films. But Moore said he believed that a few people would watch his films and get up and do something about making the world a better place. I was still working at Microsoft when I saw the film. But his comments connected with me and not long after that I left Microsoft and started The Podcast Network to try to make the world a better place.


But here’s the kicker – the cinema where I saw that film, was the Cinema Nova in Carlton – the exact cinema where I’ll be standing up one week from today to introduce my own little documentary.

Marketing The Messiah Hits Cinemas In March 2020

My first documentary film, Marketing The Messiah, will be screening in selected cinemas in Australia and the USA in March 2020.

It’s a secular history film about early Christianity. I interviewed twelve scholars and asked them to explain how a fringe Jewish sect from the backwaters of Judaea ended up taking over the Roman Empire.

Who wrote the New Testament?

When was it written?

In what order?

How did the message of the New Testament change over the course of the writing of it?

And how did the early Christians convince Romans to worship a dead Jew?

It might seem strange to make a film about this because most Christians probably think they already know the answers – and most atheists don’t give a shit.

But what I’ve found over the years is that most Christians are actually incredibly ignorant about the foundations of their religion. Moreover, most of them don’t want to know. There’s an attitude many of them have that suggests history doesn’t matter – only faith. Which is fine, I guess, but strikes me as rather silly. You’d think that anyone who decides to devote a chunk of their life to a philosophy would want to understand where it came from.

The atheists, on the other hand, tend to dismiss Christian history because they aren’t interested in religion. But I need to point out that Christian history is the history of Western Civilizations from around 400 CE onwards. As I often say – Julius Caesar and Alexander The Great were both worshipped as gods and you’re interested in their history – how is this any different?

The film, however, isn’t an attack on faith or a theological debate. I’m not interested in those topics (for now). This is just about the history of the early church. And to make sure it isn’t biased, I made sure that half of the scholars are Christians and half are atheists. As you’ll see when you watch the film, they all agree on the fundamental questions posed above about the writing, authorship and timing of the New Testament. That’s mainstream scholarship – even though most Christians will probably be shocked by what they hear.

You can find screening information here and learn more about how to set up your own screening here. You can watch the trailer here and more clips from the film here. Yes it will eventually be available for streaming, but not until later in the year.

Washington Post Exposes Own Bias On Venezuela

In Ishaan Tharoor’s recent update on Venezuela, the typical US government / media propaganda / disinformation campaign is in full swing.

For example, he talks about the “grim conditions created by a dysfunctional economy”, but fails to mention these grim conditions are largely caused by crippling and illegal US sanctions. The sanctions have been criticized by the UN high commissioner for human rights who said last year they would ‘significantly exacerbate the crisis for millions of ordinary Venezuelans’, but the Post doesn’t even mention them until paragraph 8 and even then not mentioning the UN criticism or the illegality of the sanctions. He also doesn’t mention the report published by the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research last year that 40,000 people may have died in Venezuela since 2017 because of US sanctions.

The Post then goes on to quote Ecuadoran President Lenín Moreno who “insisted that Maduro’s “despotic regime” had to go”. Moreno is the guy who took a sharp turn to the right when he became President in 2017, after a meeting with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort (currently serving seven years in jail), then revoked Julian Assange’s asylum, after allowing Assange’s private conversations with his lawyers be bugged and shared with the US (it’s alleged), and accepted a US-backed $10 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It’s the same Moreno who has been roundly criticised by his own people during the 2019 Ecuadorian protests, and who is currently sitting on an all-time low popularity, reaching only 7% of approval as of February 2020.

Destroying Lives For Profit

Check out this amazing and terrifying story in The Intercept about a lawyer whose life is being systematically destroyed by a large corporation.

“Chevron has hired private investigators to track Donziger, created a publication to smear him, and put together a legal team of hundreds of lawyers from 60 firms, who have successfully pursued an extraordinary campaign against him. As a result, Donziger has been disbarred and his bank accounts have been frozen. He now has a lien on his apartment, faces exorbitant fines, and has been prohibited from earning money. As of August, a court has seized his passport and put him on house arrest. Chevron, which has a market capitalization of $228 billion, has the funds to continue targeting Donziger for as long as it chooses.”

What did he do to piss them off? He helped tens of thousand of Ecuadorian farmers to successfully sue Chevron over contamination of their lands. They were fined $18 billion – and then refused to pay up.

It’s a stark warning about what can happen if you try to take down a corporation by yourself.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying these people are psychopaths. But this is the kind of behaviour we should expect from psychopaths and psychopathic organisational cultures.

Protecting whistleblowers from psychopaths

I mention in the book that the way a company treats whistleblowers is a good indication of how psychopathic its culture has become. Investment fund Blue Sky allegedly fired one of their managers when he spoke out internally about shady practices.

People who speak up about their ethical concerns should be highly valued by organisations, not punished. They are the canary in the coal mine. But to a psychopathic culture, they are perceived as a threat, not a tuning fork.

We need legislation that makes it extremely difficult for organisations to punish whistleblowers. One way to limit the power of psychopaths is to make it less dangerous for the rest of us to call them out on their bullshit.

TMZ Seems Psychopathic To Me

Someone in management at TMZ, it would seem, made the decision to leak the news about Kobe Bryant’s death, knowing that it was quite likely his family would hear about it from a gossip site before being contacted by the police. Imagine that scenario. A friend of the family calls and asks “is it true?” “Is what true?” you ask. When they tell you the rumour, you frantically try to call your husband. He doesn’t answer. You try your daughter. SHE doesn’t answer either. What a horror story.

What kind of person would willingly do that to someone in the name of being first to market and therefore getting some additional profit?

Disclaimer: I’m not saying these people are psychopaths. But this is the kind of behaviour we should expect from psychopaths and psychopathic organisational cultures.

The Wells Fargo Culture

In my book, The Psychopath Epidemic, I talk about how psychopaths in power can influence entire organisational cultures to become psychopathic. Even societies can become psychopathic (for example, Germany in the 1930s and the United States today).

Organisational cultures can become psychopathic to such an extent that the behaviours that should be shunned in fact become something they are proud of.

John Stumpf, the ex-CEO of Wells Fargo, presided over massive consumer fraud. The bank opened two million checking and credit-card bank accounts without the consent of its customers. He didn’t go to jail. But he did get a fine that he could easily afford and a “strongly worded critical letter“… so that’s something, I guess.

As a young man, one of his first jobs was as a repossession agent. Having worked as one of those myself when I was about the same age, it’s a profession well suited to psychopaths. I hated it. It was soul destroying.

Stumpf was known for his folksy sayings:

“When we hire somebody around here, we want to know how much you care, before we care how much you know,” he says, without the slightest hint of irony as we sit with him at his San Francisco office. “We call our employees team members, not employees. Employees denote an expense to be managed. Team members are an asset to be invested in.”

Wells Fargo: The Bank That Works, Forbes, Jan 25, 2012

In this same Forbes article from 2012, they talk about what a heartwarming departure he was from other banking executives:

All of Wells Fargo’s 264,200 “team members” receive a 37-page book, Vision & Values signed by Stumpf, full of warmed-over prescriptions for how to behave, treat customers and, above all, increase revenue. But in a field where sayings like “every man for himself” and “eat what you kill” have led to blunders of historic scale, it’s also a welcome departure.

Wells Fargo: The Bank That Works, Forbes, Jan 25, 2012

Which I guess just goes to show that we should never believe corporate PR.

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting Stumpf or any Wells Fargo people are psychopaths. But this is the kind of behaviour we should expect from psychopaths and psychopathic organisational cultures.

PS: Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway are the biggest shareholder in Wells Fargo. Charlie Munger, Buffett’s partner, calls what happened at Wells a “blind spot”. Warren referred to it as a “big mistake“. As listeners of our investing podcast, QAV, would know, I’m a big fan of both Buffett and Munger, certainly as investors, and they have a reputation for very high ethical standards. And I don’t expect investors to be responsible for corporate culture of the companies they invest in. But it’s disappointing to hear them dismiss this kind of behaviour as just big mistakes and blind spots.

Cum-ex Psychopaths

The financial services industry is reputed to be over-represented with psychopaths. In my book I talk about the recent Australia Banking Royal Commission as one example of how the industry seems to attract them en masse. It’s hard to read this story about “cum-ex” fraud without thinking a lot of the people tied up in it, including the lawyers, might be psychopaths.

One of the German lawyers involved in stealing tens of billions of dollars from public treasuries reputedly said:

“Whoever has a problem with the fact that because of our work there are fewer kindergartens being built,” Dr. Berger reportedly said, “here’s the door.”

This is why I argue that the number one thing we can do to stop psychopaths from destroying the world is to implement psychopath tests of all managers across all kinds of organisations.

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