As a blogger helping other people blog, I was very interested in this op-ed article from Wednesday’s Washington Post, “Bureaucrats declare war on free advice,” by George Will.
Here’s an excerpt:
Four years ago, Cooksey was a walking — actually, barely walking — collection of health risks. He was obese, lethargic, asthmatic, chronically ill and pre-diabetic. The diet advice he was getting from medical and other sources was, he decided, radically wrong. Rather than eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, he adopted what he and other enthusiasts call a Paleolithic diet, eating as primitive humans did — e.g., beef, pork, chicken, leafy green vegetables. Cooksey lost 75 pounds and the need for drugs and insulin. And, being a modern Paleo, he became a blogger, communicating his dietary opinions.
When a busybody notified North Carolina’s Board of Dietetics/Nutrition that Cooksey was opining about which foods were and were not beneficial, the board launched a three-month investigation of his Internet writings and his dialogues with people who read and responded to them. The board sent him copies of his writings, with red pen markings of such disapproved postings as: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.
… North Carolina is uninterested in the fact that Cooksey’s advice is unpaid, freely solicited and outside any context of a professional-client relationship.
… Were Cooksey blogging for profit to sell beef and other Paleolithic food, he would be free to advise anyone to improve their health by buying his wares. So his case raises two questions:
Is an individual’s uncompensated advice, when volunteered to other individuals who seek and value it, constitutionally protected? And does the Internet — cost-free dissemination of speech to spontaneous, self-generated audiences — render many traditional forms of licensing obsolete?”
I recommend you read the entire article as Mr. Will thinks through the issues involved.
What do you think? Is the North Carolina board violating this blogger’s constitutional right to free speech?