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S4:E13 King Leopold’s Ghost

S4:E13 King Leopold’s Ghost

King Leopold II of Belgium used forced labor to build his empire in the Congo.

When you think of the world’s worst mass murderers, King Leopold II doesn’t usually come up. But due to his forced labor practices in the Congo, nearly 10 million people lost their lives. He did this by pretending that his actions in that region were a missionary effort. In reality, he forced Africans to harvest wild rubber or risk having their hands cut off.

The truth is even darker than that: it turns out that Leopold was far from the only person doing this. This same era was marked by many major world powers engaging in forced labor. From the US in the Philippines to Arab countries in eastern Africa, much of the modern world was built on forced labor.

Author Adam Hochschild joins us for this episode to discuss his book “King Leopold’s Ghost“.

I first heard about this story on the Noble Blood podcast and their episode “The Red Paint on Leopold II”.

Discussion Questions:
  • Had you heard of King Leopold II before this?
  • Leopold did send missionaries to the Congo. Was that a positive or negative thing for our Christian witness?
  • Did you know that other major countries were engaged in forced labor into WWII?
  • What do you think of the US-backed coup in Congo? Is it okay for the US to get involved in the politics of another nation?
S4:E12 Christians and the British Slave Trade

S4:E12 Christians and the British Slave Trade

Christians helped to end the British Slave Trade. But we forgot one of it’s greatest heroes: Thomas Clarkson

The British slave trade had several well-known enemies: William Wilberforce and John Newton (who wrote “Amazing Grace”) to name a few. But historian Adam Hochschild (“King Leopold’s Ghost”, “To End All Wars”) argues that history has largely forgotten the most valuable member of the abolition movement: Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson was in charge of gathering and disseminating information across the British Isles. He fought for years to end the slave trade and then slavery itself.

This movement is important for many reasons. It was the first to use logos, a coordinated marketing campaign, and it established a high bar for investigative journalism. It was also an ecumenical movement.

In this episode we explore slavery, the importance of slave rebellions, the power of ecumenical efforts, and the book “Bury the Chains“.

Helpful discussion questions:
  • Had you heard of Thomas Clarkson before this episode?
  • Do you participate in any cross-denominational movements? Where do you draw the line?
  • Has your church ever participated in anti-racism movements?
  • Was there any wisdom in ending the slave trade first?
  • Why do you think John Newton didn’t give up the slave trade as soon as he became a Christian?
  • Was it possible to be a Christian and own slaves?
  • Do you think humanity will ever go back to slavery?
  • Do modern payday loans keep people in bondage in the way that debt kept people in bondage in the 1700s?

Helpful links:

  • Link to slave ship diagram (very interesting)
  • Episode Photo from the Library of Congress. FYI – it is not from the correct era or place.
What ended the British slave trade?
  • Slave revolts in places like Haiti
  • The high cost of ending slave revolts
  • Freedom was in the air after the American Revolution and the French Revolution
  • Public opinion
  • Women in the 1800s boycotted sugar to protest slavery
S4:E11 The Cult of MLM

S4:E11 The Cult of MLM

Multi-level marketing companies behave like cults. Does that make MLMs cults?

Multi-level marketing companies have many similarities to cults:

  • They tend to have strong authoritarian leaders
  • They expect you to believe their philosophy
  • They separate you from your loved ones and people who question the MLM
  • They make utopian promises

Why don’t we think of them as cults? Well, we don’t like to think of businesses as being cults. MLM companies and organizations have connections in high places like the White House and the Chamber of Commerce.

Robert FitzPatrick joins us once more to discuss his research. He’s the founder of www.pyramidschemealert.org and the author of the book Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing.

BONUS: This Goes All the Way to the Top

BONUS: This Goes All the Way to the Top

People as diverse as Kamala Harris and Donald Trump support multi-level marketing

Multi-level marketing companies have very powerful friends. Here is a list of some of the well-connected people tied to MLMs:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris
  • Former President Donald Trump
  • Mitt Romney
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • The former head of the Chamber of Commerce
  • and many more

How is it that a business model where over 99% of the people involved will lose money is still legal? The answer is in the list.

My guest today is Robert FitzPatrick from Pyramidschemealert.org. His excellent book is Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing.

Helpful links:

  • A New York Times article about Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff’s involvement with Herbalife
  • A second NYT article about Harris and Emhoff
  • A Washington Post article about President Trump’s “Trump Network” MLM
  • A fascinating piece by Time about Herbalife
  • The Washinton Post about Mitt Romney’s involvement with NuSkin
  • Interesting Last Week Tonight episode about MLMs (contains strong language)
S4:E10 The Hidden History of Multi-Level Marketing

S4:E10 The Hidden History of Multi-Level Marketing

The story of how pyramid schemes came to effect 1 in 6 American households

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a relatively new invention. It was created when a failed vitamin salesman named Carl Rehnborg was out of options. So his wife suggested that he attend a rally by Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Once there, he formed a bond that created one of the most profitable predatory financial traps in modern history: multi-level marketing. One that found its legs… in the world of cemetery plots.

Our guest in this episode is Robert FitzPatrick. He’s the founder of PyramidSchemeAlert.org, a non-profit that tells the truth about pyramid schemes. He’s also the author of the excellent book Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you know someone who sells for an MLM?
  • Have you ever sold for an MLM?
  • Do you think they should be legal?
  • What is market saturation and how does it impact salespeople?
  • Have you ever bought an item that you didn’t need just because the salesperson was so good?
  • What can you do to show MLMs for what they are?
  • Has anyone at your church ever tried to sell you on an MLM?
  • How can tying a bad business practice impact how people see Jesus?

Helpful Links:

S4:E9 How Do Pyramid Schemes Work?

S4:E9 How Do Pyramid Schemes Work?

How do pyramid schemes work and what is multi-level marketing?

What is multi-level marketing? It is a very popular business model that targets Christians and other people of faith. But… it is almost guaranteed to fail. Because MLM’s and direct sales companies are not designed to sell a product but to sell the business itself. Joining us for this episode is Robert Fitzpatrick. He’s the president of Pyramid Scheme Alert and the author of the new book “Ponzinomics: The Untold Story of Multi-Level Marketing“.

Also mentioned in the episode is the podcast The Dream. Season one talks in great detail about pyramid schemes. Please be aware that some of the episodes use strong language.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • What is multi-level marketing?
  • What is a pyramid scheme?
  • What is a Ponzi scheme?
  • Who are Ponzi schemes named after?
  • Who was Charles Ponzi?
  • Is multi-level marketing the same thing as a pyramid scheme?
  • What is the difference between a pyramid scheme and multi-level marketing and a Ponzi scheme?
  • What is a good book about pyramid schemes?
  • Will I lose money with multi-level marketing?
  • Is Amway considered multi-level marketing?
  • Is Herbalife multi-level marketing?
  • Do pyramid schemes target Christians?
  • Should I join an MLM?
  • Which MLM should I join?

Looking for the Amway stats we mentioned? You can find them here: https://pyramidschemealert.org/half-of-amways-products-are-retailed-really-plus-other-wacky-numbers-3/