A story in the Stanford University Alumni Magazine presented a sobering look at the devastation hate-driven gossip can wreak in today’s information age.
Titled, “The Persecution of Daniel Lee” the article chronicles the smear campaign that destroyed the life and career of one the most popular entertainers in South Korea and his celebrity wife.
On earning a bachelor and a master degree from Stanford in 3 1/2 years, wunderkind Daniel Lee chose to pursue the unconventional profession of hip-hop artist. He made it to the top of his field when a group of anonymous bloggers accused him of lying about his credentials.
Incredible as it seems, their hate not only ruined his career, they even brought on threats to Lee’s physical safety and that of his wife and baby.
Imagine having to publicly prove things that are a matter of record only to have your evidence maligned as “forged” when it is not. What kind of defense are you left with when the mob turns against you?
That Lee, a talented genius whose only crime was being so competent that jealous detractors didn’t believe him, had to prove his identity and accomplishments, is a savage criticism of his opponents, who remained invisible until he was forced to take legal action to shut them down.
I read this story with an (unfortunately) knowing viewpoint, not necessarily because of attacks I have suffered personally but because I have lived through the false vilification of my religion and fellow Scientologists through the Internet for many years.
These lies don’t affect me. But they do affect my family who are not Scientologists. I have seen people whom I doubt have ever really helped another human being try to destroy the reputation of leading Scientologists by “accusing” them of ridiculous “crimes” such as “couch jumping,” (being too honest and enthusiastic about their love), warning women of the side effects of anti-depressants—a “crime” which was later vindicated as a public service when the drug—Paxil—was later found to be so harmful it was forced to bear a black box warning; and which was marketed so fraudulently that the class action suits against GlaxoSmithKline garnered plaintiffs $64 million and brought the company to announce the end of any future future antidepressant research.
Yet where in all of this is the apology. Where is the public announcements that this Scientologist, who had the courage to speak out, was right?
What is the state of our culture when we devour news of Lindsay Lohan’s incarcerations and Michael Jackson’s and Amy Winehouse’s deaths yet we ridicule well-meaning, hardworking people who save the lives of addicts?
There is tremendous good in the Internet. Instant communication can save lives. Exposing crimes and fraud can topple corrupt governments and save us our livelihoods.
But the tool is as sane as the man or woman who wields it. And it is the sanity and intentions of those who have destroyed the life of Daniel Lee and who have tried unsuccessfully to destroy my Church and fellow Scientologists that I call into question.