Korean rapper battered by false online rumors

This scary story out of Korea: A Rapper Ravaged by an Online Firestorm. Dan Lee graduated from Stanford with both a BA and a Masters in English, and then he decided to become a rapper in his native Korea, going by the name Tablo. He flew to the top of the charts. According to the article, he even outsold Jay-Z and Eminem:

“His album at that time was the No. 1 album on the U.S. iTunes hip-hop charts,” Davis says. “It was topping Jay-Z and Eminem, so he was really on the verge of something.”

(Not sure why I know who Jay-Z and Eminem are but hadn’t heard of Tablo. But I’m no hip-hop expert.)

Someone got either mad or jealous. They/he/she claimed to be a relative and said that Tablo had lied about his academic credentials (funny how a Stanford degree gives street cred to a Korean rapper, while getting locked up in prison does the same for an American rapper). He graduated with both the BA and Masters in 3.5 years, which looked suspicious. When Tablo responded by releasing his transcripts and degree, Korean netizens began poring over the documents and looking for reasons to believe they were doctored. Tablo’s sales plummeted. He was harassed in the streets.

As it turns out, Tablo hadn’t lied. He did graduate from Stanford. Stanford actually contacted a journalist from Wired and asked him to find out the source of the rumors. 12 people are now on trial for defamation. Tablo’s career is now back on track.

I’m just a bit surprised that an anonymous commenter who claimed to be a relative could cause this much damage. We’ve got an anonymous coward rule on this site, but even without such a rule, wouldn’t people fight for Tablo’s right to know who his accuser is? This kind of nonsense happens often in small, rural American towns, but how does something this obviously avoidable take place with one of an advanced, industrialized country’s most famous celebrities?

 

21 thoughts on “Korean rapper battered by false online rumors

  1. That is, without a doubt, the weirdest hip hop story ever. Next you’ll be telling me that Snoop Dogg’s post=graduate degrees from Berkley were fabricated as well. I mean, how can he be a proper rapper without an English degree?

  2. Well, Dr. Dre has to be the most educated of the bunch. The “Doctor” part has to be from a PhD. Unless he’s a medical doctor.

  3. I need to write in defense of the concept of anonymity. This post seems to be a very heavy disparage of anonymity and its value to the world and its connection with the rise of the internet. It just seems this sounds like a complete disparage of anonymity.

    Anonymity is a double-edge sword. I can agree with that. It allows both people to throw vitriol while avoid any consequence, but also allows people to speak honestly of thoughts and ideas.

    One of the biggest examples of why we need anonymity is the case of dissension of Scientology. Their history have been filled with brave people like Paulette Cooper and John Sweeney who attempted investigate them have been reward with attacks aim to basically destroy their lives and drive them insane. As much as martyrdom is found as admirable to causes, it is not a reasonable expectation and such a sacrifice should not be needed to voice inquiry and possibly truths.

    Stories like these are examples of intentional defamation and dishonesty. Not that anonymity is intrinsically wrong (the anonymous cowards rule continues to sound like that as the areas of complaint can be easily be covered by accepted conventions that good debates means avoidance of flaming and trolling).

  4. Dreamer:

    You wrote:

    “Anonymity is a double-edge sword. I can agree with that. It allows both people to throw vitriol while avoid any consequence, but also allows people to speak honestly of thoughts and ideas.”

    I don’t get it. Why do you (or anyone else) need to be anonymous in order to be honest? Are you telling me that you’re more honest with strangers here than you are in real life? If that’s the case, I’m glad I know you here, and not in real life!

    The Scientology examples prove nothing about anonymity. Paulette Cooper and John Sweeney aren’t anonymous, which is why we know their names! I would venture to say that the information they released would lose credibility had they decided to release and hide. Morally speaking, a person or organization has the right to face their accusers.

    Wouldn’t you agree?

  5. The Scientology examples prove nothing about anonymity

    Did you missed the line that their also got reprisals as the made their case? Cooper was target to drive her to insanity and was only saved by a timely investigation that caught documentation of the “Operation Freakout.” Sweeney was constantly harassed, threaten, and defamed. The reprisals was not at all ethically acceptable, though largely skimmed around the areas of legality.

    So please state again that Scientology proves nothing about anonymity. But address that how anonymity would not help protect Cooper and Sweeney. Also addressed the Project Chanology where thousands of protesters demonstrated back in 2008 in response to the crimes Scientology have done to its members and those who try to investigatively learn more about them. Also I have to ask, with understanding that Scientology’s history and previous stated policy to attack anyone who tries to investigate or protest them, that as many people would protest with their face open? How about address the stories of those who did show their faces and was subjected to similar results as the reporters.

    If the Scientology example is not enough for you, how about anonymity in China? Do you think people there can voice criticism about reports of the news or the government in the open? Currently, one development that seems to be happening in China as reported via Washington Post “In China, foreigner-bashing brings backlash.” It seems that dissension have occurred as people voice doubts about the news… in anonymity. Do you think if they have to put their names in the open, they would be able to voice critical thoughts like that?

    Now, perhaps you might be tempted to counter-argue in this moment that the US is different. But let’s think back to Eugene McCarty. Is he that far removed not from modern day that he cannot be cited as an example where having certain ideas or being associated with such but done no ethical or even legal crime cannot be persecuted? Can you not imagine that people who find the events objectionable would have a hard time voicing? Wouldn’t having the safety of anonymity having pose such ideas out?

    Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation – the legal group who defends free speech including fighting SOPA and legal cases like MBTA vs. Anderson who the MBTA tried to suppress Anderson who was trying to publish and alert a major security loophole in the newly released fare card system of their academic research for MIT – said once “This country was founded on unpopular ideas by unpopular speakers and they used anonymity. The Federalist papers were not signed, neither were the comments to them.”

    Many major and revolutionary ideas started small – many of which means open speaking means quick suppression. This even includes the actions that eventually reached critical mass to open voice and lead to the founding of the US.

    Why do you (or anyone else) need to be anonymous in order to be honest? Are you telling me that you’re more honest with strangers here than you are in real life? If that’s the case, I’m glad I know you here, and not in real life!

    First, I want to say I do not appreciate your snark insinuation of my character.

    That said, I can point to an actual fair and balanced analysis of anonymity by Karina Rigby of MIT published to their papers. One of the notes about its positives is it allows many to make “… on line discussions involving sexual abuse, minority issues, harassment, sex lives, and many other things. Additionally, anonymity is useful for people who want to ask technical questions that they don’t want to admit they don’t know the answer to, report illegal activities without fear of retribution… ”

    http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/student-papers/fall95-papers/rigby-anonymity.html

    There are plenty of types of ideas and words that people would be uncomfortable or scared to say or type with their name attached. Can you not imagine there are people out there with experiences or ideas that should be talked about, but there are forces that also want to put reprisals for such discussion? If you cannot, then how do you explain the anonymous discussions that percolates in China and Egypt? Or the anonymous discussions about Scientology? Are you saying anonymity had no value to them as they discussed things they open speakers were squelched or removed? Or just experiences that people not as dangerous, just feel ashamed or uncomfortable like sexuality or other things that have a strong stigma, you don’t think anonymity have no value to helping those talk about such feelings or experiences?

  6. Right to face their accusers

    I just made the connection of “would you agree?” with the first half of the paragraph.

    The accused does have the right to face accused. As codified in the Constitution and originated by earlier laws and ethical thinkers. However, the right to face accusers does not negate anonymity and mean anonymity does not have importance or value. The right to face the accuser does not mean the right to expose the person to the public and definitely not for an outing by the public.

    Also for your consideration, how about a case where the accuser is the one being honest and telling a truth for something wrong? Is the person cannot be anonymous in the case of saying something against the powerful or against popular opinion (this of course only matters if the right to face the accuser always means also the right to expose the accuser – please remember accusing is not the only form anonymity)?

  7. Tommy,

    That dude is one smooth rapper. I have no idea what they taught him at Stanford, but it works.

  8. “First, I want to say I do not appreciate your snark insinuation of my character.”

    I wasn’t insinuating anything. I was simply going by what you said–anonymity “allows people to speak honestly of thoughts and ideas.” Now do I think this means you’re dishonest in person? Not necessarily. But it does mean that there are logical issues with the argument you made that might not exactly fit with your own beliefs.

    Essentially, there are two issues to this debate.

    1. First, there is the relevant issue to both the anonymous coward rule and Tablo the Korean rapper, which is this: is it right for anonymous people to make accusations and personal attacks against real people who put themselves out there? The answer is that in America, no. The Scientology examples actually prove exactly the opposite of the point you are trying to make. Cooper and Sweeney attached their names to their writing because they believed in what they said. If they had acted like cowards and wrote anonymously, people ought to just ignore them. Why should anyone pay heed if people are too cowardly to stand behind their words? Fortunately, Cooper and Sweeney are brave individuals who fought and won.

    Anonymity would not help Cooper and Sweeney. They’re better people now because they did the honorable thing by attaching their names to their accusations, which eventually proved true.

    China is a different story since they don’t have liberal democracy. The Federalist Papers were also written before liberal democracy, so that’s not relevant either (The Federalist Papers were also written at a time when anonymity and strange conventions of copyright and attribution were in play).

    Let’s move on and talk about McCarthy. Again, not sure why you brought him up. He certainly wasn’t anonymous. Would it have helped if he had had opponents who were anonymous? I don’t see how. Please explain.

    2. Now yes, anonymity does serve a purpose, BUT not in the case of Tablo’s attackers or some of those HBD jackasses and sexists who used to post here. Anonymity could be useful for sharing–as most of the people here do. If you’ve got an embarassing question, or you just want to cry out without sharing who you are–that’s perfectly fine. Gay newsgroups, for example–not everyone is ready to come out, and it’s great that people can talk without outing themselves. The Fighting 44s were powerful in part because it was anonymous and people could share embarrassing secrets.

    It’s an entirely different thing if a person uses anonymity to attack real people. In that case, we invoke the anonymous coward rule.

  9. Epik High’s “Love Love Love” was one of the best club songs going around all those years ago.

    But one of the good things to come out of this was that Tablo got to spend a lot more time with his newborn than he would have and the relationship between he and his wife became stronger because they managed to get through the bad times together.

  10. I wasn’t insinuating anything.

    When you make statements like “I’m glad I know you here, and not in real life!” You are making an insinuation. The definition of insinuation is hinting – making a statement that what it hints is “not necessarily.” If you are merely want to point there a logical conflict (which there is not), you could have merely pointed that why would any honest person need anonymity to speak honestly.

    two issues to this debate

    My issue is neither of your central two points (though your refutation of my evidence I will take issue as you are attacking anonymity for general purposes too).

    is it right for anonymous people to make accusations and personal attacks against real people who put themselves out there?

    No way I’m advocating that. While it expected for public figures to catch some scrutiny (though I state that more for politician than a musician), the wrong here is people creating libel – not the use of anonymity. You can say that anonymity is being abused, but your post is attacking anonymity in-of itself rather than the user who decided to make up lies and troll.

    Anonymity would not help Cooper and Sweeney. They’re better people now because they did the honorable thing by attaching their names to their accusations, which eventually proved true.

    Sweeney is a maybe as it seems he only bare the grunt for a short time before Project Chronology and the Scientology Protest developed. Cooper suffered years of harassment and attacks. Operation Dynamite left her a mess as she was framed as a person trying to make bomb threats to Henry Kissinger.

    If they had acted like cowards and wrote anonymously, people ought to just ignore them.

    See this is my issue. You are repeatedly making the connection that anonymous equal coward rather than anonymity is a tool to help allow people to say something (as a said double-edge sword – could allow the dishonest to lie under covers, but also the honest to tell the truth while avoid retribution).

    Fortunately, Cooper and Sweeney are brave individuals who fought and won.

    They are winning – they haven’t won as Scientology is still here and still fleecing unsuspecting people while taking the cover of religion. But look at public knowledge before 2008 and after 2008. I will add a cause too that it could be generational related. Before 2008, most people have not heard much of Scientology and remained relatively open minded as they walk across their tables and watch celebrities like Tom Cruise. After 2008, especially for our generation, while they still stand, anyone who says “I’m going to a dynametrics-Scientology class” is now going to get a mouthful of “Whhaatt? Are you crazy? Have you heard about what they do?” What was the pivotal even in 2008 that accomplished? Was it a slow accumulation of Cooper published in the 1971? Was it Sweeney’s documentary in 2007? Or was it the big protests that only occurred as people spoke to each other anonymously and show up to protests en masse with masks on in front of their “churches”?

    It is all the above. Sweeney and Cooper couldn’t get the word out by themselves. However the protests couldn’t have risen without the seeds of information partially founded by Sweeney and Cooper. Still, the protest couldn’t have risen without anonymity to allow them to communicate to each other and then protest after it reach critical mass.

    Again, the success in exposure toward Scientology have been greatly done by anonymity. Without it, Sweeney and Cooper would have ramained voices in the wind. Tom Cruise alone would have continued to influence and covert far more to whatever than they can inform and save.

    China… The Federalist Papers… McCarthy

    You are basically arguing we are the exception. As we are “Liberal Democracy” (actually we are a Constitutional Republic, but that’s a different discussion to talk about what’s the difference) Unlike the other countries or other times… we have moved forward and passed the extant of that danger. However, why that mean anonymity is only for the Chinese? Why is this tool is only needed for societies and nations that are not Liberal Democracies? Anonymity needs to be universal. You can’t say China should have it but we shouldn’t have it.

    McCarthism is an example because he’s the most recent and yet also commonly accepted example (there’s more recent ones, but bringing those up ends up in debate if they are really examples). The reason why McCarthy was able to go so far is because everyone lived in fear of him. Anyone who spoke against him is immediately marked as a Communist and anyone else who braved to speak to that person’s defense is marked as well. Dissension was not possible. Anonymity would have allowed those who disagree to speak to each other without getting immediately crushed while they are too small to illicit substantial support.

    That’s perfectly fine

    If you are in agreement, then why are you disagreeing with the examples of China, McCarthy, the Federalist Papers, and Scientology as relevant examples? If you are just talking about the attacks on Tablo, then why are you conflating it with Anonymity without consideration with its pros? Because my staunch defense of anonymity is for those reasons that you are conflating them. For one who ends a comment agreeing its value, you spend most everything else knocking it around rather than the issue of why people in Korea didn’t had any skepticism or the issue of people creating libel.

  11. @big,

    Remember the Chinese idiom “枪打出头鸟” (The bird that sticks its head out gets shot)? China’s need for anonymity almost has nothing to do with lack of liberal democracy. We are shy, moderate and timid people, we don’t like to put ourselves under the spotlight. Even oversea Chinese don’t like to say things(things that have nothing to do with politics) with their real identity exposed. That’s why a lot of Chinese blog under pseudonyms.

  12. Dreamer:

    “When you make statements like “I’m glad I know you here, and not in real life!” You are making an insinuation.”

    Oh, give me a break, Dreamer. It was a JOKE, based on some crazy statement that you made about anonymity being a necessary requirement for honesty. Was it intended to rile you up? Yes. But only because your statement made no sense!

    You say that I’m attacking “anonymity for general purposes too,” but I don’t see it. If I were doing that, I’d say, “Everyone needs to come out now.” I’ve never done that. Nor have I ever said anything condemning anonymity-without-accusations-and-personal-attacks.

    The wrong IS libel, but the wrong is also anonymous libel. Legally they’re both wrong, but morally they’re not the same. Most people who attach their names to an accusation believe it to be true, and they tend to be more credible. They take responsibility for their words. I’ll bet if you were to offer Sweeney and Cooper and do-over, they’d choose the same non-anonymous route. It’s what journalists of integrity do.

    Again, I’m not sure how anonymity has anything to do with their case. You say that “the success in exposure toward Scientology have been greatly done by anonymity.” Please explain. Were Sweeney and Cooper anonymous? Sorry, but I just don’t get it at all. From everything I read, they were not anonymous. Could you explain?

    “Unlike the other countries or other times… we have moved forward and passed the extant of that danger. However, why that mean anonymity is only for the Chinese? Why is this tool is only needed for societies and nations that are not Liberal Democracies? Anonymity needs to be universal. You can’t say China should have it but we shouldn’t have it.”

    Liberal democracy guarantees protection under the law. They don’t have that yet in China. So it isn’t so much that it’s a good thing–hell, it’s a BAD thing. Have you ever heard of the term “human-flesh search engines?”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Human-t.html
    It’s not good by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s what people may do in authoritarian countries. And sometimes it turns out well when a person who has to be anonymous for safety exposes someone. Sometimes. Sometimes it ends up badly when someone gets attacked for no reason.

  13. ChineseMom,

    As usual, thanks for sharing your wisdom. Actually, when we came up with the anonymous coward rule, it was because a couple of anonymous mainland Chinese guys started attacking real people. (One of them was attacking an entire race of people too.)

    I guess my next question is this: assuming there were legal protections in China for speaking one’s mind or conducting investigative journalism, do you think things would be different? If you look at the Asian American blogosphere, most of the more well-known bloggers are “out.” With the exception of Slant-eye-for-the-round-eye, who has always been fair and has never engaged in accusations, no one is really anonymous.

  14. It was a JOKE, based on some crazy statement that you made about anonymity being a necessary requirement for honesty. Was it intended to rile you up? Yes. But only because your statement made no sense!

    Well, the “rile me up” got your wish. Again, it is not appreciated. The bigger point is it does make sense. You said yourself it is fine in cases like “embarassing question, or you just want to cry out without sharing who you are.” Which is my entire point. So does anonymity help people speak honestly or does it not? Because your own words seems to say that if anonymity allows a person talk about something embarrassing or a taboo, then it sounds like it does help a person speak honestly to me.

    Like I been trying to say. Anonymity is a double edge sword. It can be used to do good like allowing someone to ask an embarrassing question or cry out like you said, or be a whistleblower or state an idea that they are afraid to say with their name attached. It can also be used for malice like this story. Since you have no qualm with anonymity in general, just libelous anonymity, then then is no need to contest my statements about Scientology, McCarthism, Federalist Papers, and China. Liberal Democracy or not Liberal Democracy.

    Again, I’m not sure how anonymity has anything to do with their case

    You missed my explanation again. Read this: But look at public knowledge before 2008 and after 2008. I will add a cause too that it could be generational related. Before 2008, most people have not heard much of Scientology and remained relatively open minded as they walk across their tables and watch celebrities like Tom Cruise. After 2008, especially for our generation, while they still stand, anyone who says “I’m going to a dynametrics-Scientology class” is now going to get a mouthful of “Whhaatt? Are you crazy? Have you heard about what they do?” What was the pivotal even in 2008 that accomplished? Was it a slow accumulation of Cooper published in the 1971? Was it Sweeney’s documentary in 2007? Or was it the big protests that only occurred as people spoke to each other anonymously and show up to protests en masse with masks on in front of their “churches”?

    I’ll reiterate again too more concisely too. Anonymity help expose Scientology because if anonymity didn’t exist, there would have been online spread or organizing, no mass protests in 2008, no subsequent media coverage, and Cooper and Sweeney would still be struggling to get the word out to a few thousands while Tom Cruise spread his spiel to millions.

    That’s why Anonymity is important. But of course, if you have no issue outside of libelous accusers hiding under a pseudonym, then why do you find issue with the claim anonymity help people spread the word about Scientology or when I take issue against the idea anonymity is not useful outside autocracy or in it. My issue is you calling the rule “Anonymous Cowards” rather than “Trolling,” “Flamming,” and Libel which you keep saying anonymous is a bad thing. The subsequent responses someone manage contest that claim.

    In regard to the “human flesh engine.” That’s not anonymity, that’s mob vigilantism. Everyone who goes hunt for those people can all act with their name posted wide open and it doesn’t change a thing. It looks like to me to be the rise of how the internet allows things like crushing a kitten to be seen and enraged millions than because people are posting pseudonymously.

    BTW, I think that guy you were talking about whom you banned was an Asian American Blogger. Or at least lives in the US.

  15. May I suggest that the disagreement here may stem from a slight miscommunication? I notice that Dreamer is defending the benefits of anonymity, whereas Byron is mainly concerned with the use of anonymity as a covert means of attacking people. So perhaps Dreamer’s points looked like a defence of anonymous attacks, and Byron’s looked like a wholesale dismissal of the value of anonymity. But I really don’t think either of you are saying that. But maybe I’m reading this all wrong. O_O

  16. You’re right, Raguel. But again, as I said above, I don’t think anything or done even remotely indicates that I’m against all anonymity.

    Dreamer,

    Even now that I see your Scientology thing, I don’t see that as any kind of having any bearing on this conversation. People discussing things anonymously so that others hear about it? Sounds like bigWOWO.com! But these people who discussed Sweeney and Cooper weren’t leveling accusations or attacking people. They were simply discussing and spreading what two non-anonymous journalists reported. The “source” of the reporting was always out in the open.

    It’s entirely different with Tablo, entirely different with those guys who used to post here. It’s a rule that ought to be followed in general: If you’re going to make a statement directly about someone that could damage them, you ought to post your name.

  17. I also hope it’s clear that my position is that not all attacks are bad. Some, like the Scientology attacks, are good. They’re accusations that happen to be true. But accusations should always have a real person standing behind them. Otherwise they detract from dialogue.

  18. To me this story is more on how the dark side of the internet can easily spawn and support a movement that wouldn’t last long without it. It’s great that the internet can provide anonymity to a certain extent. It certainly makes it easier for us to share stories and experiences that would otherwise not be shared. But on the flip side, birthers and anti-vaxxers wouldn’t be as big as they are if it weren’t for the internet. I think it’s no surprise that a highly connected country like S. Korea would spawn all these conspiracy nuts. Though I’m surprised that they seem to put that crazy energy into their pop stars while ours tend to be political or health related (birthers, 9/11 truthers, anti-vaxxers).

  19. @big,

    “I guess my next question is this: assuming there were legal protections in China for speaking one’s mind or conducting investigative journalism, do you think things would be different? ”

    The answer is NO.

  20. ChineseMom,

    I would argue with you, but I think you’re probably right. :)

    Aside from legal issues, it probably also has a lot to do with how society is structured and how people socialize. I think Asian American bloggers are more open because everyone around them is more open.

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