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Censored Blogger: “People Need to Know the Truth”

WebProNews interviews blogger Steve Cooksey about his censorship case and the value of free speech on the net.

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Censored Blogger: “People Need to Know the Truth”
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For a man who’s been diagnosed with diabetes, you’d never guess that about Steven Cooksey. His life choices fly directly in the face of the American Diabetes Association’s recommendations for people living with the disease. He maintains a no-grain/low-carbohydrate diet, commonly known as the Paleo diet, and as a result is in fantastic health. Incredibly, because of his dietary decisions, Cooksey no longer requires insulin injections (on his website, he states that before adopting the Paleo diet he was taking four insulin shots a day). With those kind of seemingly miraculous results, it’s no surprise that Cooksey wanted to share his story and hopefully help others with what he’s learned through his own research and experience. Steve Cooksey, Before & After Transition

While trying to help others, Cooksey also has no problem making his disagreements with the ADA known. However, little did he know that by blogging about his success in maintaining his diabetes with the Paleo diet while also lambasting the ADA for its dietary policies would lead to him becoming a target for government censorship.

How do you feel about the government trying to regulate speech on the internet? Should it keeps its paws off of the internet or is some mediation needed from the government? Chime in with your comments.

His website, Diabetes-Warrior.net, features several nutritional recommendations as well as many pointed critiques about the ADA’s policies. In a recent post, he rips the ADA and details how he maintained a steady blood sugar without following any of the agency’s guidelines.

It’s not as if Cooksey is doing anything fanatically radical. Food and diets are probably one of the most blogged about subjects throughout the internet. Dissent also abounds on the internet, and so the combination of dissent and diet shouldn’t really be cause for legal intimidation from the government. Disturbingly, that would not be the case for Cooksey.

He suspects he was chosen as a target by the ADA and its government cohorts because he doesn’t shirk from passionately criticizing the organization. “I do feel like I’ve been singled out, I really do,” he said. “The Paleo diet movement is really growing. I’m sure there’s hundreds of Paleo blogs out there, but here’s the thing: there’s not many that call the ADA drug-pushers or grain-pushers. I have utter disdain for those organizations.”

It was that unwavering disdain for the ADA that likely earned him the censor-happy attention of the organization. Earlier this year, Cooksey spoke out against an ADA supporter at a diabetes seminar and, if his website is any indication, it’s not hard to imagine he probably didn’t mince his words. Shortly after the event, though, he received a notice from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informing him that, because he was blogging about his positive experience with the Paleo diet and offering up advice to readers and acquaintances, he was illegally giving dietary advice without a proper license.

After making some changes to his site, the content of his blog has since been deemed within “substantial accordance” of the law, but the specific law the Board is supposedly enforcing is a hoary law that leaves innumerable questions unanswered. I mean, this is the internet. People blog about their diets and foods they like, they share advice about diets, they consult with each other for new ideas. It’s not like Cooksey was doing anything illegal or causing anybody harm and the Paleo diet isn’t exactly uncommon these days.

He also contests the claim that he was accepting payments for the advice he was sharing with people on his blog. “All of my information is free,” he said. “I got that information from other blogs and books. It’s just all consolidated on my site.”

Cooksey disputes the claims of the NCBDN that he was in fact receiving some financial compensation. “They were raising hell because I was giving advice, advising, and counseling. They had an issue with the selling part, which was the biggest strength of the complaint filed against me.”

“I’m not selling advice, I’m not,” he said. “I was just offering people help and some support.”

Who knew helping out your familiars would land a guy with such heavy legal attention. Cooksey has since filed a lawsuit against the NCBDN alleging that they violated his right to free speech. However, the NCBDN will likely argue that they’re looking out for the good of the general public by limiting the amount of information Cooksey is allowed to share on his blog. Still, it’s not like he’s running a hitman service; it’s a diet blog.

Sarah A. Downey, a legal analyst with Abine, doesn’t exactly see where Cooksey could possibly have been doing any harm to anyone. “It doesn’t seem here that he was getting paid to be a dietician,” she said. “The public safety argument is a good one, but you can’t just apply it wholesale.”

Even in the event that Cooksey could have received compensation for his advice, Downey still isn’t sure that he’s doing anything wrong. “It would be a stretch of the definition of commercial speech,” she said.

Still, whether Cooksey is able to successfully sue the NCBDN for violating his right to free speech, the ramifications of the attempt to censor the blog are already being felt. “My speech is more guarded now,” Cooksey admitted, referring to the tone he takes these days on his blog posts. “I’m not as direct in saying that you should eat like me. I think you should eat like me if your lifestyle requires you to take drugs, but I try not to say that diabetics should eat like me. But I try to stay clear of talking directly.”

Although Cooksey’s taming of his diabetes makes his ability to share his experience a deeply personal mission, the legal issue extends well beyond the instance of one blog or one blogger. The case is a microcosm of the totality of freedom on the internet, the right for any of us to openly speak on the web without the fear of obstruction or a muzzle. Cooksey hopes that something positive will come from this saga. “Obviously the law firm [he's being represented by The Institute for Justice] and I want to prevent the restrictions of freedom of speech.” He continued, “I also want to use this increased attention to highlight and bring to the forefront this problem in the diabetes industry.”

Asked if he believed it was his constitutional right to blog freely about his opinions and nutrition, Cooksey makes a deliberate pause before replying succinctly, “Hell yes.” Apart from trying to challenge the information circulated by the ADA, Cooksey doesn’t neglect the greater importance emanating from his ordeal: freedom of speech. “We know that the government wants to grow its power over the people, and this may seem like a minor instance, but if I can help protect the encroachment of our freedom of speech.” He adds, “I welcome this opportunity and I would like to be a part of that.”

Tell us what you think about Steve Cooksey’s story. Anybody out there had a similar experience with a blog you run? Do you think Cooksey has a pretty solid lawsuit against the NCBDN? Share your reactions below.

Censored Blogger: “People Need to Know the Truth”
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  • Deb Stewart

    Ironic, isn’t it? Government tries to shut Cooksey down due to concerns about safety of the populace. Why then haven’t they shut down the tobacco companies and their websites?

  • Michael

    I recently watched a DVD called “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” which documents 6 Americans who changed their diet. Within a week most were off insulin. So I think Cooksey is certainly onto something.

    While there is an argument for preventing certain material to be available, when it comes to diet and health surely individuals can make up their own minds about what is true and what isn’t? Why do we think bureaucrats and doctors are brighter or have more common sense than the average person? Believe me, I went through uni with people who went on to become doctors and lawyers (and some who, thankfully, didn’t). They are just the same as you and me. They have their own foibles and biases the same as the rest of us. They are also just as subject to corruption as the rest of us (perhaps more so since they have more to lose).

    It seems that these days, unless you follow the conventional (ie, big Pharma, big Govt) “wisdom” you will be hounded or prosecuted. Dissenting views are silenced. Today it is food, diet and health. Tomorrow will it be dissenting political views. (You already have the Patriot act!).

  • http://www.counterclects.co.nr gad zihlorne

    governments will eventually take over all the activities of the internet. Its matter of time. The UN resolution is geared in beating USA influence in internet regulation. The professed autonomy under US -based non profits will be overthrown. The problem with that is the inclusivity of the internet especially with respect to involving small time marginal entrepreneurs like ourselves being still left out at the the mercy of unrecognised demigods and their false prophecy.

    • http://netcommercial.net Simon

      Govt’s have been meddling in our affairs much to long, that is why we left the crown. People who call on the Govt instead of letting nature take it’s course, is how, and why, we the people have been painted into a corner.
      The only difference NOW is that the US Govt has made it illegal for what they did 200+ years ago. Where people who do not like the program want to leave, cannot! When I state leave I mean resettle in a new frontier and create a better life, like our forefathers mad for us. Which BTW, the lazy and the imports are undermining the idea of it all.

  • http://www.snapdeal.com/products/jewelry ganpat

    as the google says stop piracy no liberty …. they are very much true in that .. govt should look into these issues….

  • http://affordableweddingminister.com Susan

    ADA and FDA and many other agencies ….want to you stay sick so they can sell you drugs to treat your condition.
    Haven’t you noticed the 2 most profitable business around are drugs and oil ???
    The Democrats in office are always helping the drug companies.
    The Republicans are always helping the oil companies.
    Together they can profit the most income – and have helped to keep the american public in slavery to pay for their pleasures.

  • http://netcommercial.net Simon

    We are America because of our constitution. The First, and one of the foremost amendments, is FREEDOM OF SPEECH…. Without that you have a dictatorship.
    People you need to stop voting for pro-government officials. With the Internet (Thus far) we can look up and pass on information that is not censored by an editor, like our so called news stations who are owned by advertisers, who in turn are owned by lobbyists. The common man such as myself, has no lobbyist; so free speech is my only sword. Do not vote for the party, vote for the man. If he lies, or reneges (pronounced Reniggs) on his view, remove him. He is no better then a friend who leaves you hanging all the time!

  • http://findseniorlifeinsurance.com robert

    This situation is similar to the healthcare act. These laws have nothing to do with our healthcare. They have everything to do with control.

  • Arthur Baldwin

    Various agencies like the ADA, FDA, FTC, AMA, and many others are against any free speech that endangers their income in any way. This is nothing new. They have pursued even more agressive (and illegal) means of suppression for many decades. The health of Americans has not entered their consciousness (or their consciences) for the last 30 years or more. Evidences of this fact include: The FDA knows that drinking cows milk causes osteoporosis, can subject people to dangerous levels of antibiotics that are fed to the very sick milk producing cows, and that it poses as much risk to the public health as drinking small amounts of arsenic. But have they changed any advertising from the milk industry? Nope. Life isn’t fair…don’t expect any of these agencies to be anything close to honest.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      Agreed but taking it a bit further, I would contest claims that this is about ‘government’ trying to control us when it is more often a case of bureaucrats whom none of us elected trying to maintain control of their little fiefdoms and sources of revenue.

  • http://www.seoxcellence.com/blog Mitch Mitchell

    You said North Carolina, right? Come on, this one’s too easy. Of course North Carolina would have a law like this; look how they are politically, including just recently.

    With that said, and without seeing all that he wrote previously, and trying to step away from the emotions of this one (I support his free speech by the way), the only two things I could see where they could possibly have an issue is if he represented himself in any fashion as a medical professional (if he didn’t have any disclaimers anywhere that counts) or if he slandered the ADA in his missives, and in that case there are precedences where others have been sued for slanderous statements that end up hurting an organization monetarily.

    Being diabetic, I can’t see why anyone would want to slam an organization that’s offering advice for how to deal with it. Frankly, I’ve visited the site and read a lot of their information, and though I think some of it is extreme I find it hard that anyone with diabetes would actually hate them. But that’s what free speech is all about; it allows anyone to disagree with someone else, regardless of what it is.

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Daniel

    I have mixed feelings about this case….

    I do believe that big pharmaceutical companies have become way too powerful…though, our own reliance on them has largely contributed to this…

    These days, we look for a pill to cure everything, therefore relying less on a healthy lifestyle….

    Apart from essential medications(without use would more than likely cause death)those items we must take… yet, we become addicted to a whole bunch of other things(especially antibiotics) which we often take every time we have a minor cold or flue…

    Okay, back to the main point of the article….

    I think that if the methods being suggested by the author(to combat his diabetes) can be replicated on a large scale(over a period of time) then he may be onto something….

    Note: Think about how often you hear ” Do not eat, drink or do this”!

    Then, within a few months time, another study comes out stating that the item you were told to avoid, or keep to a bare minimum, is actually good for you and can combat(lower the risk of) cancer, diabetes, etc,etc,…..

  • http://warren.gaebel.ca Warren Gaebel

    Public and private communications are subject to laws that restrict our freedom of expression. Some of those laws say we can’t give advice in certain fields without being a licensed practitioner in that field. In this case, it looks like the field is nutrition counselling.

    Whether we communicate by speech, print, or electronic means, communication is communication. I do not believe the Internet should be treated any differently in this regard. If we believe a law violates our fundamental legal rights, then let’s attack it on that ground, not because it was noticed on the Internet.

    Example: If I advise you never to take pharmaceuticals (legal and illegal both), I am providing medical advice. Since I am not a medical doctor, me giving you this advice is illegal. However, if I state that I am not a medical doctor and offer my comment as a belief rather than as advice, then I’m off the hook legally. [Note: The author is not a lawyer and has had no legal training. The comments stated herein are to be construed as belief rather than legal advice. (See what I mean?)]

    From a statistical viewpoint, anecdotal evidence (i.e., story-telling) is not a basis for any conclusion. Mathematically, it presents a divide-by-zero error. Any sample size less than 50 is suspicious. A sample size of 1 is ridiculous.

  • http://www.drbrainles.com J. Hill

    We need to do all we can to keep the government as far away as possible because right now, it works. The 11 scariest words in the english language, “Hi, I’m from the government, and i’m here to help you”

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