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Must Read: The Passion of the Tablo

At Wired, Joshua Davis has penned an indepth and disturbing piece on the online crusade against rapper Daniel Lee, a.k.a. Tablo. Here’s just a sample:

After entertainment gossip sites wrote about the anti-Lee site, TaJinYo’s membership swelled to more than 100,000. Not content to wait for more allegations to emerge, many forum members launched their own investigations into Lee’s past. Soon, in a birtherlike onslaught, Stanford professors and administrators were flooded with emails from people questioning Lee’s educational background. Thomas Black, the Stanford registrar, received 133 emails on the subject. Everybody wanted to know one thing: Was Lee telling the truth?

Forum members seemed to relish the digital inquisition. “We call this game ,” wrote one heckler, who referred to himself as a Tablo Online player, as if it were a casual pastime to be enjoyed during work breaks. Whatbecomes expertly fanned the flames, threatening to reveal dark secrets about Lee and promising to unveil them slowly for maximum dramatic effect. It was, he said, “more fun that way.”

Whatbecomes began hinting at a broader conspiracy: The media was colluding to protect Lee, because he was part of Korea’s upper crust. But the average citizen could fight back. “By proving Tablo’s fraud this time, the deep-rooted symbiotic relationship [between the media and the rich] can be cut off,” he wrote.

Tablo’s cousin, Seungmin Cho, who helped fan the flames by reportedly joining the lynch mob, seems like an interesting fellow, too:

In a six-paragraph rant, Cho went on to accuse Lee of inflating his IQ score and falsely claiming to be a top student in high school and college. Lee, he wrote, was even a screwup as a kid and got kicked out of middle school. “For the record, this is not jealousy,” Cho added. “I have no reason to be jealous of an individual whom I obviously despise for his lack of candor.”

[Former SIS teacher] Simmons didn’t respond; she was baffled that her comment had provoked such vitriol. Three days later, Cho wrote again: “One more thing, Ms. Simmons. Great people of east Asia don’t need you. We will own this century, and the next, and the next, until all non-Asians are essentially pounded to submission … Of course, it is the mission of thought leaders like myself who will propel what will be united Korea in the meantime.”

The Marmot’s Hole: Waiting to Be Essentially Pounded to Submission, Since 2003.

Anyway, as one of my former employers used to say, the netizens are scary. I try not to bash the netizenry too much—Korean cyberspace is a very rich place, you can find online nutjobs everwhere, and I think a lot of the criticism I’ve been reading (at least within Korea) has been politically motivated. Still, when Korea’s much-praised IT connectivity is combined with the country’s small size and social grievences against “the elite” (not all of which are unjustified, mind you), the results can be quite frightening.

(HT to readers, including my brother)

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • CactusMcHarris

    ‘“We have to beat the shit out of these swindler dogs in order to taste the truth,” ‘

    Geez, if that isn’t a recipe for a bowl of Bowser, I’ll eat my toque.

  • Angusmack

    When I read the comments of the stalkers Mr Cho in California or Mr Kim in Chicago and the local idiots, it puts the North Koreans into perspective…the Norks are just Koreans who lack the same social restraints the internet affords South Korean netizens; the freedom to go full retard whenever they like with little fear of repercussions. Strangely comforting and disconcerting at the same time.

  • Gyeonggi Doh

    Waiting patiently for the inevitable link to show that this type of behavior occurs elsewhere in the world and is therefore not an issue worthy of discussion.

  • http://pawikoreapics.blogspot.com/ pawikirogii 石鵝

    just type in suicide facebook and you will get what you looking for, doh. you keep trying, k?

  • Gyeonggi Doh

    Thanks, only took seven minutes for me to find out that Korea need not be concerned about the issue.

  • Keyser Soze

    Here’s something the netizens of Korea will surely grab on to:

    http://news.yahoo.com/top-vet-rushes-soothe-mad-cow-fears-020643449.html

    http://news.yahoo.com/south-korea-retailers-halt-u-beef-sales-government-022841354.html

    It’s election year, and the Korean left finally have the issue they’ve been looking for! Fasten your seatbelts, expats, it’s gonna be 2002 and 2008 rolled into one…..

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    When I read the comments of the stalkers Mr Cho in California or Mr Kim in Chicago and the local idiots, it puts the North Koreans into perspective…the Norks are just Koreans who lack the same social restraints the internet affords South Korean netizens; the freedom to go full retard whenever they like with little fear of repercussions. Strangely comforting and disconcerting at the same time.

    Hooray for casual racism.

  • hardyandtiny

    “Tablo didn’t study: He just did hip hop and became famous in Korea.”

    boo fucking hoo

  • gbnhj

    Sad that his cousin joined in on that crap. No matter what Cho’s feelings might be, he didn’t need to make them public, and certainly not in that way.

  • Geoffwah

    I feel like the bigger issue here is that maybe all of this vitriol-spewing is one of the avenues for South Koreans to be able to vent a lot of below-the-surface tension and anger that accumulates in a lifetime spent living under the constraints of a sometimes oppressive, unfair, and rigidly Confucian society. I think for the Netizen-aged Korean, the internet is a safe and socially acceptable venue for them to get out all of the splenetic bile that is kept in check during most social interactions throughout their day, even between friends.

    Ultimately, what a person says about you tells you more about them than it does about you. As kumbaya as it sounds, I really do feel bad for whatever terrible lifetime of getting kicked in the ribs has lead Whatbecomes to be such a douche.

  • Angusmack

    @TK,

    Oh, get a life. You’re gonna play the race card on me for drawing an analogy between bat-shit crazy netizens and the North Korean propaganda ministry? Let me amend my comment so as not offend your well developed sense of injustice “the internet affords some South Korean netizens”. Just in case you missed it, I wrote that comment to express my withering contempt for the nut jobs on both sides of the DMZ, not the entire Minjok. There, feel better?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Who really cares if a *rapper* faked his degree? In most countries a Stanford degree is something a rapper would want to keep secret.

    What really blows my mind is how professors at major universities failed to catch things like Professor Shin’s fake Yale PhD and Representative Moon’s plagiarised thesis. Those are the heads that should roll, and about which Korea should be most concerned. I wonder what Moon’s thesis “defence” consisted of? And how out of touch with the world of academia must a department be not to know that Shin never went to Yale? No one at Kookmin knew anyone from Yale? But no, let’s go after a “powerful” rapper.

  • mateomiguel

    I read the whole article. It is a fascinating tale of social injustice and jealousy fanned into a life-destroying fire. It is easy to see that Tablo’s cousin, Cho, felt disrespected and cheated, not by anything that Tablo had done, but for things he had NOT done. Tablo didn’t respect his “older brother,” upperclassman by one year, and cousin Cho, according to Cho. Tablo didn’t do what it took to succeed, according to Cho. Tablo didn’t accept being second place to his buttoned-down, by-the-book older cousin Cho. So Cho let him be destroyed via the Internet.

    I was really amused by Cho’s off-the-wall explosion of vitriol to a Stanford professor. “One more thing, Ms. Simmons. Great people of east Asia don’t need you. We will own this century, and the next, and the next, until all non-Asians are essentially pounded to submission … Of course, it is the mission of thought leaders like myself who will propel what will be united Korea in the meantime.” Thought leaders like Cho, who destroy their relatives’ reputations out of jealousy. I can assure you that as long as Koreans so viciously attack their best and brightest, us non-Asians have got NOTHING to worry about from your bucket of crabs.

  • Granfalloon

    In the future, everyone will be infamous for fifteen minutes.

  • Arghaeri

    And how out of touch with the world of academia must a department be not to know that Shin never went to Yale?

    Indeed just how out if touch were Donguk Uni to expect that an Associate Dean of Yale would validate that Shin went to Yale when in fact she didn’t. Sheesh :-)

    22 September 2005 – Schirmeister confirms via fax that Shin received her doctorate from Yale, stating that “I am confirming that the attached letter was issued by the Yale Graduate School and signed by me.”

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Just in case you missed it, I wrote that comment to express my withering contempt for the nut jobs on both sides of the DMZ, not the entire Minjok. There, feel better?

    Given that the only thing that ties the nut jobs on both sides of the DMZ is race (which you dutifully point out in your comment, even after your amendment,) I fail to see how your comment is not racist.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    YBS — your comment reminded me to check out the docket for Dongguk v. Yale case. After 4 years since it was filed, the case is still going on! There was a trial date for June 4, but apparently the parties postponed it.

    The order denying Yale’s motion for a summary judgment was a riveting read. It seems pretty fair to say that while Dongguk is hardly an example of “best practices,” Yale screwed up pretty badly also.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Sorry – I meant Dongguk above, not Kookmin – my apologies to the latter.

    “22 September 2005 – Schirmeister confirms via fax that Shin received her doctorate from Yale, stating that “I am confirming that the attached letter was issued by the Yale Graduate School and signed by me.”

    Asian art is a pretty specialised field and at least some profs at Dongguk should be no more than two degrees of separation away from whoever teaches it at Yale. Surely someone at Dongguk should be familiar with her thesis supervisor – or did they not bother to read it or even ask for it? How about recommendation letters from profs whom they could contact? The inability of everyone in all levels of Korean education to deal adequately with English references just blows my mind.

  • http://blog.oranckay.net oranckay

    Methinks the Tablo chronicles are excellent cases study in how “you are your diploma” in Korean society.

    If Madonna suddenly announced she’d gone to Stanford, most of her compatriots would say, “WhatEVER! Now shut up and sing.”

    If it had ever been established that Mick Jagger had attended Oxford it would be an interesting factoid and worthy of mention, but it wouldn’t make his music any better.

    Why did it ever matter whether Tablo had graduated from Sanford or not?

    Because it was that very Korean standard of success that helped make him a (Korean) socially acceptable rapper in the first place. His parchment helped make him a sensation.

    A gyopo equally qualified as a rapper, who was actually fluent in “street” and had dropped out of the two-year Los Angeles City College, would’ve had a harder time garnering the same attention.

    Minerva’s writings carried weight when people assumed he had objectively certifiable credentials. When it turned out he hadn’t, he was considered a farce. And maybe he was (I don’t remember). But his writing hadn’t changed before and after. Which is to say they hadn’t been taken for their substance alone.

    Not unlike Tablo’s music.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    “If it had ever been established that Mick Jagger had attended Oxford it would be an interesting factoid and worthy of mention, but it wouldn’t make his music any better.”

    He did attend LSE, where he was classmates with Canada’s Ambassador to America and former minister of finance. It helped give him young middle-class rebel credentials.

  • Jieun K

    This reader comes back… to find this tempting post, tries to keep the fingers from the keyboard, but gives in once again.

    Good for him that he’s too insignificant for big shots to fuss over, not as VIP as the Talented Ms. Shin to go down the same road. Kudos, too, to the A team of spin doctors of his.

    But it’s sad. Sad to see all these phonies struttin’ their fake shit, keepin’ on their dupery.

    Out.

  • keith

    Jagger did indeed attend LSE. He left though as his music career was starting to take off. I’m glad he left LSE, the music and culture in the world would be far poorer without his contributions to it, and others like him. Who needs more bankers? They’re not a lot of use generally are they?

    The idea that a ‘rapper’ or musician (most rappers shouldn’t really be considered musicians) needs to go to university is just daft. Frank Zappa never went to university and he was one of the most incredible and important musician-composers in the last century, lots of the best musicians never went to university. Most of the best pop musicians never went to university, and most of them certainly never endured the ‘training’ that Korean manufactured Kpoop bands go through.

    Good music-art comes from people who love it, work hard at it, have a bit of talent and a certain amount of good luck. It doesn’t come from attending cram schools from dusk till dawn to go to a prestigious university.

    When an individual is rated purely on his-her education it is pathetic. You can be very successful in life, with perseverance, hard work, some luck, ingenuity and a bright mind. My father (now retired) never went to university, and he had a very successful career indeed. My mother only went to secretarial college.

    I’m sure his lifestyle now as a retired man would be the envy of 99.9% of the world. Dad and mum go on a cruise a couple of times a year, they own a lovely house in a very nice part of England, they eat well, they have a nice collection of wines and never worry about money. They moan a bit though, they’re old and that’s what old people tend to do!

    They’re considering selling their big house and moving into something smaller (sensible when the UK’s property market recovers), and buying another small property somewhere in the world where the climate is more pleasant for old folks. They’re not in the 1%, they’ve simply worked very hard all their lives and are enjoying the fruits of their labour in their twilight years.

    I wouldn’t be suprised to see some Kpoop stars making their living selling semi-rotten vegetables out of cardboard boxes in the next few years. Like the expiry date on the products they’ll be selling, their careers have a short life too.

  • yuna

    JieunK, why are you so against Tablo? When I first posted about him you told me a couple of things or to look up the comments he’d made over the years..I think I have drawn a conclusion in general of this affair that:

    There are cold hard facts which he did not lie about (like his attending Stanford) and maybe there are anecdotes (some out of his own mouth, some from cartoon MC’s like Kim Hodong etc who sort of twist the words out of people’s mouth in a sarky praising way) of his wonderful genius which might have the Baron Munchhausen feel about them, but somehow all these get wonderfully mixed up and to people who think he’s a *fake* whatever that may be, it’s all only a mash up of these tales that got him where he is, and not his music, so he should be taken down.

    I still think it’s a weird society that people should be that interested in, or should care that much to induce hip hop artists to exaggerate about how many guns they possess but what GPA they got. It’s ffing embarrassing, it reminds me of that joke “How do you know if an Asian’s burgled your house?”

  • yuna

    exaggerate NOT about

  • keith

    “How do you know if an Asian’s burgled your house?” Never heard that one myself.

    What’s the punchline? ‘Footprints on the toilet seat’ or ‘My degree certificate went missing’?

  • YangachiBastardo

    Methinks the Tablo chronicles are excellent cases study in how “you are your diploma” in Korean society

    Damn Koreans they value education so much, how do they dare :) ?

    Frank Zappa never went to university

    Frank Zappa ? P-LU-E-A-S-S-S-S-E-E-E most of his shit is absolutely inaudible, if you’re not infected with a worrying levels of geekness.

    I’m really glad this porno-obsessed asshole ancestors left my country (we already have enough people and enough problems as it is, thank you), too bad he was really popular here, even in the 80′s.

    He generally attracted the summer fest heroin addict crowd, people who didn’t receive the memo about the 60′s being long gone.

    Fuck the 60′s, fuck the 70′s and fuck rock n’ roll. Something that started out with dreams of rebellion and youth and quickly turned into a bunch of crass, pompous, drug-addicted, underage models-dating demographic of middle-aged English and American whiteys, churning out some of the most boring pieces of music known to man.

    K-pop may not be so artistically relevant but at least it’s catchy, fun and straight to the point, gimme any day anything from 2ne1 over a bunch of rednecks fapping their guitar for hours and hours in a row.

    There, have fun:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbo9vZaD1ro

  • YangachiBastardo
  • keith

    Mate, Zappa wan’t just rock ‘n’ roll, though he did some very creative re-imagining of that genre, his true love (in music) was do wop, r’n’b and orchestral. Pierre Boulez lent his orchestra to perform ‘Yellow Shark’, and you don’t get a lot more ‘serious’ than Boulez in regards to contemporary orchestral music.

    Zappa was a genius and a true artist, and is recognised as such amongst the musical greats of today. I was never a great fan of his guitar solos (excepting Black Napkins), but his compositions are works of genius.

    To rate Kpoop over Zappa is sad, very sad indeed.

  • CactusMcHarris

    YB,

    I agree with Keith, you’re missing his genius. Listen to ‘Trouble Every Day’, and he was an outspoken spokesperson against censorship.

    OTOH, you do score points about his porno-obsessed lyrics

    ‘Ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it up your poopshoot
    Wristwatch, Crisco…
    Don’t fool yourself girl, it’s going right up your poopshoot’

    Still, it’s got a great beat.

    And since this thread’s come up, I have listened to Tablo and Epik High – that’s some decent music, too. Fever’s End – that’s good stuff there, but so is ‘Billy The Mountain’ – incredible satire and good guitar, too. ‘Peaches en Regalia’ – great jam. YB, I got to say you shit the bed with putting Kpop over Zappa, but that’s just one aging liberal hippie douche’s opinion. Still, I’d like to have a beer or three with you and go to a match and light some Roman candles at the opposing team’s fans.

  • CactusMcHarris

    And I misspelled ‘poopchute’ – oh my word…

  • YangachiBastardo

    I was obviously just trying to stir some shit ;)

    k-pop is very well produced modern pop music though, a bit of everything inside: dubstep, dance, electro, drum n’ bass etc etc

    Still, I’d like to have a beer or three with you and go to a match and light some Roman candles at the opposing team’s fans

    Anytime :)

  • slim

    Don’t fool yourself Cactus, it’s going up your K-poopchute.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #12 YuBumSuk: “And how out of touch with the world of academia must a department be not to know that Shin never went to Yale? No one at Kookmin knew anyone from Yale?”

    Have you ever caught wind of those hiring “committees”? Although I was not in the room, I am almost certain I know what happened.

    **Koreans are so taken with credentials that they simply took the name brand on resumes. Koreans haven’t mastered that the resume gets you the interview not the job.

    **Committees in Korea are a joke. Anyone who has been here knows that committees for all intents and purposes consist of one guy, whoever is highest in the Confucian order. Often even the pretense of the committee is a joke because no one dares goes against the top guy.

    **Committees serve the purpose to give the top guy probable ground cover. If the top guy agrees with the findings of the “committee”, he’s got ground cover. If not, the top guy just over rules the committee.

    **Special circumstances (which really aren’t that special in Korea) such as family relationships, payoffs, coercion: All of us should know that the fix was already in for Shin at Dongguk. She had a president’s aide backing (yes, thank you) her.

    Yale is going to make the mistake of not understanding Korean culture in defending its case against Dongguk. Yale cannot begin to fathom the scope and magnitude of fraud and corruption at Korean universities so that it won’t even raise into question the process of the hiring committee.

    Yale’s political correctness in not wanting to go to the stereotype about Korean culture and naivete in not understanding that the stereotype is not only that strong but also that prevalent is going to cost Yale in American court.

  • Arghaeri

    What’s the punchline?

    The house is tidier than when you went out :-)

  • Angusmack

    @ TK,

    No, it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with deeply imbedded cultural habits, there is a difference and you know it. The real reason is that you took offense is that I compared the writing style of a couple of whack job Kyopos and the DPRK agit-prop department and implied that they shared a culture. That’s it. Many Koreans at home and abroad write and speak in extreme, vitriolic tones that transcend national division and ideology. It is not racist to point it out, it is merely a fact and facts aren’t racist. For example, many Russians are drunks, many sub-Saharan Africans mutilate their girl’s genitalia, many French smell, many Tea Partiers are ignorant assholes who don’t understand their own history or constitution. And many Koreans lose their shit and threaten death and social destruction on those they have taken a dislike to, whether they are successful hip-hop artists or conservative politicians who cut off the Danegeld. Again, these are facts and outside of race or racism. Now, throwing a charge of racism out, not matter how seriously intended, is meant to cut off dialogue and silence those whose opinions you disagree with. An intellectually dishonest and effective tactic, in most cases.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Yale is going to make the mistake of not understanding Korean culture in defending its case against Dongguk. Yale cannot begin to fathom the scope and magnitude of fraud and corruption at Korean universities so that it won’t even raise into question the process of the hiring committee.

    Yale’s political correctness in not wanting to go to the stereotype about Korean culture and naivete in not understanding that the stereotype is not only that strong but also that prevalent is going to cost Yale in American court.

    In fact, Yale’s best defense, and one that they have raised, is that Shin’s appointment was the result of a corrupt deal and that it was already a fait accompli before Dongguk even bothered to contact Yale. The irony of Dongguk’s having brought the case is that it’s having done so is what has resulted in just the sort of damage to its reputation – in this case, outside of the frog’s well, moreover, of which it complains.

  • Q

    British libel law seems an icon of libertarianism: The NYT report “Libel Tourism, R.I.P.?”

    Under British libel law, a defendant is guilty until proved innocent. A plaintiff does not have to show damage to his reputation. Further, under the 1849 Duke of Brunswick rule, each individual newspaper sale — or hit on a Web site — counts as a new publication and thus another libel. The law also treats opinion, however measured, just as it treats tabloid gossip until a defendant convinces a court it should be accepted as fair comment.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    No, it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with deeply imbedded cultural habits, there is a difference and you know it.

    By comparing NK’s propaganda bureau and SK’s Internet trolls, you are comparing two groups of people who not only have been separated for over 60 years into different countries, different systems, different generational levels, different levels of wealth, pretty much every difference in the world one could think of, other than race. “Deeply imbedded [sic] cultural habits”? Deeply embedded since when? Will you tell me next how Confucianism leads to vitriolic reactions or something?

    I call out racism when I see it, so spare me the arm-waving.

  • jk6411

    Angusmack @#35,

    “Many Koreans at home and abroad write and speak in extreme, vitriolic tones that transcend national division and ideology.”

    Yeah, so do many American teenagers (and adults). Ever heard of “online bullying”?
    If you think Koreans are the only people in the world who write vitriolic comments online, you really have been living under a rock. (You should visit more online forums, or Youtube or something..)

    (It’s funny.. I didn’t know America was a repressive Confucian society. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen there..)

    “And many Koreans lose their shit and threaten death and social destruction on those they have taken a dislike to”

    My guess as to why some Koreans are after Tablo is that they’re simply jealous of him.
    Many young Koreans dream of going to college in the U.S. But for most of them it’s unattainable.
    The fact that it was Stanford just makes them more jealous.
    The fact that he is a singer/entertainer makes them even more jealous. (Entertainers are supposed to be stupid and uneducated. They’re not supposed to have graduated from Stanford.)

  • Q

    Mr. Gere could have a good talk with Tablo how hard it is to persuade people not to believe urban legends: Richard Gere: “I’ve never put a hamster up my bum”.

  • αβγδε

    thekorean,

    forgive the bumpkins (angusmack) for they know not what they do. they haven’t developed the constructs yet that would enable them to see others of another race, koreans in this case, as individuals who are entitled to be judged as individuals.

    that’s the key thing. and it’s the lazy-minded thing. it’s the angusmack thing. and tends to be the thing for many here, and many who teach in korea, are expats and write about korea on blogs. has been and will continue to be. that’s what got me hooked into writing on this blog, fyi. when there’s so much unnerving, rock-headed crap going on, you got to pick up the hammer and stop pounding away. i’ve been on this blog for a long time now. and at some point it’s like hammering away at those pop-up gophers in that carnival game. thanks to all those who have joined me and have picked up the hammer and have like me made the commitment to swing away.

  • αβγδε

    stop -> start.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I’m on tenterhooks waiting to learn how presumed guilt is a libertarian ideal.

  • Banana Stache

    I really really really want to hear the answer to the joke.

  • yuna

    #44
    Google knows everything
    There are various versions (along the same theme) of it.

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