Tablo's Birther Problem

You don’t normally expect great reporting from an alumni magazine. But the most recent issue of the Stanford Magazine has an article titled The Persecution of Daniel Lee that’s quite interesting.

Daniel Lee graduated from Stanford University in 2002 with a Masters degree in English, and went on to become a famous rapper and author in Korea under the name “Tablo.” However, Korea has recently been rocked by a series of false diploma scandals, and many people began to doubt that Lee had really achieved a Masters in the record time that he claimed. It became a wide spread conspiracy theory.

Both Stanford University and Daniel Lee tried to quash the rumors, but they only spread farther. Lee’s attackers accused him of forgery, and they accused Stanford staff of being in collusion. Lee has been the subject of repeated verbal attacks and threats, and his family and friends have been dragged into the argument. It continued to spiral until it became a national issue.

According to the story, Lee was able to end the spiral by going to Stanford and getting his transcript in front of a camera crew. Wikipedia tells a different story, “However, despite the documentary, and Stanford’s administration clearly siding with Tablo, membership at [the main conspiracist website] Tajinyo increased to as many as 190,000 within a few days, as numerous netizens refused to believe Tablo or the documentary.”

Americans who are familiar with the birther conspiracy theory will see the resemblances. But it strikes me that this is a pure form of the same type of conspiracy theory, undiluted with politics. The results are the same: attempts to ignore the problem allowed the rumors to spread, but attempts to deal with the accusations just fanned the flames.

But then, how exactly do you deal with these kinds of conspiracy theories?

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