The trouble started when Raj Patel appeared on American TV to plug his latest book, an analysis of the financial crisis called The Value of Nothing. The London-born author, 37, thought his slot on comedy talkshow The Colbert Report went well enough: the host made a few jokes, Patel talked a little about his work and then, job done, he went back to his home in San Francisco. Shortly afterwards, however, things took a strange turn. Over the course of a couple of days, cryptic messages started filling his inbox.
"I started getting emails saying 'have you heard of Benjamin Creme?' and 'are you the world teacher?'" he said. "Then all of a sudden it wasn't just random internet folk, but also friends saying, 'Have you seen this?'"
What he had written off as gobbledygook suddenly turned into something altogether more bizarre: he was being lauded by members of an obscure religious group who had decided that Patel – a food activist who grew up in a corner shop in Golders Green in north-west London – was, in fact, the messiah.
Their reasoning? Patel's background and work coincidentally matched a series of prophecies made by an 87-year-old Scottish mystic called Benjamin Creme, the leader of a little-known religious group known as Share International. Because he matched the profile, hundreds of people around the world believed that Patel was the living embodiment of a figure they called Maitreya, the Christ or "the world teacher". His job? To save the world, and everyone on it. "It was just really weird," he said. "Clearly a case of mistaken identity and clearly a case of people on the internet getting things wrong."
Full story here. Raj Patel says call me Brian.