The once popular Cairns Blog and the blogger, Michael Moore, were taken to court by former Cairns councillor Alan Blake on Blake's civil charge of defamation. With the case ending with a whimper instead of a bang, it's hard to feel sorry for either of these men.
Alan Blake over the years has grown to be unpopular with the voters in his division, ultimately leading to his trouncing by Richie Bates earlier this year. Unsustained charges brought to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) dogged him most of the last term along with his continued and vocal unhappiness with Mayor Val Schier and council direction. It's hard to see what actual damage Blake sustained by being a continual target of the Cairns Blog. I guess left for him to prove to the magistrate.
|BLOGGER MICHAEL MOORE GENEROUSLY SIGNS|
AN AUTOGRAPH FOR FAN JULIA GILLARD
DURING HER VISIT TO CAIRNS
At some point however Moore's attention to Blake began to take on a shrill tone, with "stories" devoted mostly to what seemed to many as overly personal intrusions into Blake's life. Stories even looked to be ginned up out of nothing more than councillor travel plans. Many readers however were shocked when photos said to be of the councillor's car parked at an inopportune location looked to many like stalking, with one reader pointing out that the time on a photo looked to be doctored. The court action by Blake followed.
Some serious issues were at stake in this case, as Moore pointed out along the way. The "new media", journalistic freedom, and the right to criticise those who put themselves in the public eye - all deserved a hearing. And as many writers to the Cairns Post are finding out, even just penning a letter to the editor can generate attacks from others in the community - part of the to-and-fro of the political process.
But in a puzzlement to many, Michael Moore just couldn't seem to "man up" for the court case. For someone with intellect and writing ability, he clearly had several avenues of defense as even Justice Jim Henry pointed out. Honest opinion and qualified privilege to discuss those in politics were thought by at least one legal practitioner (ours) to have been successful defence. There is wide case law on the subject. Additionally, the courts have always embraced "no harm, no foul" if a complaint is lodged and the offending story retracted by the publication with an apology.
However Moore essentially never showed up to mount a defence.
And it's like Woody Allen says - 90% of life is just showing up.