Michael Smith learns the hard way: Truth is not Reality | radioinfo

Michael Smith learns the hard way: Truth is not Reality

Sunday 29 June, 2014
Opinion from Peter Saxon

Last Thursday, on Ben Fordham’s Drive show, Michael Smith told 2GB’s vast audience, The prophet Muhammad was a paedophile, a pederast, a sexual offender, a man who promoted the idea that it was OK to marry a six-year-old and consummate the marriage when the little girl was nine.” 

If ever a statement made by a radio presenter deserved to earn them the title, ‘shock-jock,’ surely this was it.  Smith must have known it would provoke a reaction but he was also sure of his ground. After all, the facts of the matter, says Smith, are confirmed in the Koran itself.

Not only that, Smith’s already been ‘tried and acquitted’ by the ACMA for much the same offence in 2011. Following complaints for similar comments he made on his Afternoon program on 2UE that year, he was exonerated by the media watchdog and the complaints dismissed.

Yet, on Friday, the day after Smith’s latest outburst, 2GB Program Director David Kidd called him to deliver the big DCM. As Smith recalls, he said, "We won't be needing you. You can't call a Deity a paedophile."

Okay, it’s not quite Ned Beatty’s The World is a Business” speech from the 1976 movie Network but in that simple statement Kidd had rendered Smith a reality check on the cost of truth in the real world. You can’t offend a whole religion by calling it’s founder a paedophile and not expect some serious repercussions.

Over the past few years the radio industry, and in particular 2GB and 2Day FM, have learnt to their great expense that social media can trump the microphone if you offend a large enough group of people who then form a cyber-lynch mob to warn off your advertisers. That’s the ‘reality’ that has cost 2GB and SCA tens of millions of dollars between them.

That’s the reality that Smith doesn’t seem to understand or care about. He may have thought he was telling the truth when he said that The Prophet thought it was, “OK to marry a six-year-old and consummate the marriage when the little girl was nine,” but the Koran never mentions the word 'paedophile.'
How could it? Paedophilia, which describes unatural sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children as a psychiatric disorder, was first coined in 1886 by the Viennese psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, according to Wikipedia. Muhammad lived some 1,200 years earlier. And clearly social mores of the 7th century were very different to those of the 19th and what they are today in the 21st.

What most Muslims, like most Christians, understand is that not everything that was written in their respective “good books” a millennium or three ago is meant to be taken literally or applied to today’s standards. 
Just because the Prophet had a nine year old wife, plus 10 or 12 others of various ages back in the day, for most Muslims, it does not mean that they should emulate him today.

Similarly for Christians, despite the fact that the bible in Numbers 15:32-56 clearly instructs believers to stone to death their neighbour should they be found to be working on the Sabbath, few or no Christians seem compelled to carry out God’s work in this regard.

When I say most Muslims don’t take everything that the Koran says as ‘gospel,’ so to speak, I mean most but not all. A shining exception in Australia is Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist, fundamentalist organisation that makes it clear on its website that under Sharia Law, which they see as superior to western Law, a girl can be married off as soon as she reaches puberty, which often occurs by age 11 or 12.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is also the mob that offered up their spokesperson Uthman Badar to deliver an address at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) with the outrageous title, “Honour Killings are Morally Jusitified.”

Like Michael Smith, Uthman Badar, set out to shock. Aided and abetted by the FODI organisers, he succeeded in spades. But whatever “truth” Mr Badar may have wanted to reveal, the “reality” was that the community – including most Muslims - was so repulsed by just the topic that the session was cancelled altogether.

As many commentators suggested when FODI was all over the news last week, had the topic instead read “Are Honour Killings Morally Jusitified?” the presentation would likely have gone ahead with hardly a mention.

Michael Smith should have confined his remarks to criticism of Hizb ut-Tahrir for promoting paedophilia through its literal interpretation of ancient texts and out dated concepts. If he'd done that, most Muslims would have applauded him. And he would likely be on air on 2GB this afternoon as scheduled, filling in for a holidaying Chris Smith.

But instead he chose to accuse the ancient Prophet of one of the most heinous crimes of modern times and managed to insult all Muslims who worship him. That may make him a hero with conservative non-Muslims, but it is his employer, 2GB, who would have had to wear the costs.

Scroll down to Hear Michael Smith's whole discussion with Ben Fordham.

P.S. Michael Smith has form in writing cheques he expects his employer to cash. When he was doing Afternoons at 2UE in 2011, and was lauded as the station’s most promising talk talent, he had what he thought was The interview to bring down a government.

The interview, with ex-union heavy, Bob Kernohan, contained allegations that then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard had helped set up a union slush fund, part of which she used to renovate her house. 2UE, fearing a massive defamation case forbade Smith from airing the interview. In the interests of “truth” Smith dug his heels in and refused to sign an agreement not to broadcast it. Consequently, he and the station parted ways in November, 2011.

Unperturbed, Smith told radioinfo at the time, “The truth will out ultimately.”  He has doggedly pursued the case ever since.

Gillard and her government was eventually brought down, not by Smith’s interview with Kernohan but through the ballot box. Bob Kernohan has finally told his story from the witness box at the Royal Commission into union corruption just a few weeks ago.

From the evidence, so far, it’s hard to tell whether Ms Gillard will be forced to face charges. What is clearer though, is that it would have been an unacceptable gamble for 2UE to have allowed Smith to air the Kernohan interview.

 Peter Saxon

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1 July 2014 - 7:24pm
Michael Smith has no idea what he's talking about ... and neither does 'suzanne'.

If he actually did some research, instead of shooting off his mouth to try and promote himself, he might do better. His comments show him to be nothing more than an ill-informed media has-been. (or rather a never-really-was). And that we DON'T need.
4 July 2014 - 5:47pm
TK does not know what he is talking about. It's not Michael Smith who is ill informed. Suzanne is right, this is something that we do need to have a conversation about.

It is also wrong to say that the Bob Kernohan interview had not been legalled as it had been. See the story here: http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2013/08/shutting-down-enquiries-youve-only-got-to-take-out-one-or-two-and-the-rest-will-go-quietly.html and again here http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2014/06/jason-morrison-a-great-journalist-the-best-radio-newsman-in-the-business-and-a-true-friend.html

It would not have been an unacceptable gamble for 2UE to broadcast the interview, and it is wrong to say so. Thankfully there are Australian journalists like Michael Smith out there who are prepared to do their job rather than following groupthink like so many others are. Australia needs more like him.
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