This has got to be the best obituary I have ever read.
Michael Smith writes: “How Bob Carter cost me a career – and made me a better person.” For foreign readers, Smith hosted a talkback radio show on the East Coast of Australia. While the rest of the mainstream media was running dead on a story of an old union slush fund scandal that was connected to the Prime Minister of the day (Julia Gillard), Michael Smith pursued the story relentlessly until the point where he “resigned under pressure” after asking too many “unauthorized” questions. He now runs an influential political blog and lives off donations. There have been days in Australian politics when every political tragic was reading his site.
But knowing this, I had no idea that Bob Carter had a role in Michael Smith’s career. Before Smith did talk back radio, he confesses that he was a Gore fan working at the University of Queensland, soaking in inconvenient propaganda and promoting the University’s carbon accounting courses. Bob not only turned around Smith’s views on climate science he did something far more important – he showed him a way to speak out “when it’s costly” which Michael Smith would go on to do. Just as visible corruption encourages more corruption, the reverse is also true. Standing up to corruption shines a beacon.
Michael Smith says he believed…
That is until I spoke with Bob. Bob changed my life. He was the person who opened my eyes to the way facts can be manipulated. More than anyone else, Bob demonstrated the quiet truth about our susceptibility to power and big lies repeated often.
By January 2007 I’d been given the privilege of presenting a one-hour nightly radio show on Brisbane’s talk-back station Radio 4BC. Within months that grew to a 3 hour show during the 3 to 6PM Drive Time. One of my first guests was Bob.
I thought it would make good radio to hear “Mr Full Bottle On The Inconvenient Truth” slaughter the eccentric old salmon swimming upstream. I lasted about 30 seconds before the wily bugger had me on the canvas with his first knock-out punch.
I’d made the error of asking Bob for his opinion after my perfect opening monologue. Bob said, “I don’t have an opinion. I am a scientist. I don’t deal in opinion. I deal in facts. Observable, proven facts. I deal with the scientific method, making observations, doing experiments and arriving at conclusions. Your starting point seems to be an unproven hypothesis based on computer projections. Do you have any facts to back up your claims about global warming?”
It got worse for me from that point on.
Bob changed me in a fundamental way. He was courageous in a way I’d not experienced at close quarters.
Bob gave me the model that helped as I searched my soul for the courage to speak when it’s costly.
I think Bob would be delighted, and the best way to honor him is to push back against corruption.
A comment by Alice Thermopolis is so appropriate here:
“Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” — Albert Einstein
H/t to Chris O.