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(Image: Nine Entertainment)

As Friday arvo comes on, it’s time for the end-of-the-week news drop, something to be buried in the drinking season. But can anything top last week’s, when a $3.6 million judgment against Nein was announced, for its wholly false story accusing the Wagner farming family of lethal negligence in the Queensland floods?

Of course, mirabile dictu, turns out it wasn’t all against Nein. It was $2.4 million against them, and $1.2 million against Nick Cater, director of the Menzies Research Centre, former News Corp executive editor, and author of the now ironically titled The Lucky Culture. It’s a sizzler of a judgment: Cater was a talking head on the Nein show, and outside of the News Corp orbit, so financially unprotected by both presumably.

Going by our report on Tuesday, the judgment found that Cater actively disregarded the evidence of an eyewitness, which contradicted his false argument that poor flood prevention by the Wagners had created an “inland tsunami”. This news was the opposite of buried: it raced around inner-city pubs where media types gather. The general take was that Cater would now be offered the chance to move out of his salubrious accommodation in Kirribilli and out amongst the suburban culture he has so long celebrated in his writings, but has, for some reason, failed to shift to.

This is, of course, not the first judgment in favour of the Wagners for stories by or involving Cater. The Spectator Australia (circulation: 1800 copies, as evidenced in court) got hit for half a million, the Parrot and Macquarie for $3.6 million for shows on which Cater was a guest. Eight million bucks has gone to the Wagners, who will now be doing their farm fencing in gold leaf and diamond spikes. Could this rank as among the most wanton series of libels in Australian history?

How did Cater get it so wrong? The man has decades of media experience. First, years at the BBC before being shocked, shocked, to find that it was elitist, then at News Corp where he developed a born-again larrakin Aussie spirit… of faithfully towing the company line.

There’s a serious point among this malarkey. Cater was either duplicitous in his conduct, or he so wanted to believe that the Wagners were culpable that it entirely bent his mind out of shape. Why? Well, having a plain old cause of human malfeasance for a major flood removes the possibility that it might be a climate change-related weather event. That can’t be allowed, so human cause must be found.

Cater isn’t the only one to have slipped up in the culture wars. In the US, leading conservative magazine National Review has been defending a years-long libel suit from Michael E. Mann, devisor of the “hockey stick” graph of global warming upturn. Mann says National Review trashed his personal and professional reputation. National Review‘s stout “first amendment” defence is limited somewhat by the fact that they instantly dropped the writer of some of the material, Mark Steyn, from their roster.

Are the climate denialists starting to lose their collective mind as the evidence mounts? The National Review case will be a landmark in deciding that question.

Meanwhile, we have enjoyed this one so much, we will generously pass over Marieke Hardy in silence. Big week in schadenfreude (though god knows, Cater will probably duck a personal bill somehow). This Friday will have to be huge to make the grade. Any volunteers? Westpac? Angus Taylor? C’monnnnnnn! It’s almost Christmas.

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Peter Fray

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