I write about Korean entertainment, and it’s almost always glossy and with excitement. Of course the reality is nowhere near the veneer of Hallyu fervor that is fed to us. I neither discount that the underbelly of entertainment in any country can be pretty seedy, nor do I have to devote my writings to exposing the dirt rather than celebrating the successes. But sometimes the two converge and become personal. Over a year ago, a young, hot, and successful rap star in Korea by the stage name of Tablo, nee Daniel Lee, came under anonymous netizen attacks on his credentials. What credentials would a rap star need, you may ask? None really, except Tablo just happened to be a bona fide Stanford University graduate (class of ’02) with both a BA and a MA in English (courtesy of the Stanford co-term program).
The anonymous netizens grew and grew, and the attacks on Tablo’s credibility about his schooling reached an unprecedented level of vitriol and shocking level of hate. A year’s worth of fighting these cyberspace attackers nearly destroyed Tablo, and this month’s Stanford Magazine recounts his ordeal and the attacks in details. It’s absolutely horrifying to read. I let my Stanford Magazine sit on my nightstand for a few weeks until a few college friends emailed me asking if I read this month’s article on Tablo. After reading it I started to cry, because no one can justify what they did to him, and no one deserves to suffer such mental anguish for doing absolutely nothing other than something worth being commended for. I really urge everyone to read the article, and perhaps gain a better understanding of the power of the anonymous pen, and how to wield it with justifiable dignity.
Daniel Lee went back to Stanford last August with a MBC film crew in tow to document his visit to his alma mater. Only then did the attacks on him finally stop. But the toll it took on him and his family can never be erased. Click here to read “The Persecution of Daniel Lee”.
A few quotes really stand out for me:
The conspiracy theorists online dismissed all this as simply part of the conspiracy. They argued that the reporter had been paid to defend Lee and didn’t believe that the error in David’s résumé was accidental. Lee’s efforts to answer their questions were turned into evidence of how far he was willing to go to defend his false identity.
Lee was vindicated, but all he could feel was numbness. “The people who are doing this to me will never stop,” he said. “They just won’t believe me no matter what I do.”
He’s still afraid to go out in public and doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to perform for an audience again. This May, he returned to Stanford to give a speech to the Asian American Students’ Association. It was his first public appearance since the controversy erupted and even though it was a friendly crowd, Lee was paralyzed by stage fright, something he’d never experienced before. He felt nauseated throughout the talk and periodically had to pause to catch his breath. It reinforced his fear that he’d never be able to dominate a stage as he once did. “Honestly, I’m damaged,” he says. “And I don’t know if I’ll ever be better.”
It’s easy to join a lynch mob when you can hide behind the shield of online anonymity. It takes a strong man to fight to clear his name the way Daniel Lee did. I applaud him, as his college sunbae, and as a fellow human being. I hope time heals his wounds, and that we’ll once again be gifted with his talented song-writing inspirations once more.
[Credit: picture and quotes from Stanford Magazine]