In the middle of fighting a cyber-witchhunt questioning his degrees from Stanford University, singer/actor Tablo sat down with the JoongAng Daily yesterday for an exclusive, two-hour interview in which he discussed family, his music career – and the ability of anonymous netizens to destroy both. Here are excerpts.
A. I’m a musician and I’ve tried hard to become a musician, but people were always interested in the college I graduated from. But it was burden for me because [people and journalists] asked about my college. If I said yes [I graduated from Stanford], netizens told me I was being arrogant and I was always talking about my education. Because of these people’s reaction, I felt embarrassed to mention my education on television programs.
What I want to ask people is: “Do I need my transcript and diplomas to become a musician?” When it turned out that some entertainers fabricated their educational credentials a couple of years ago, reporters verified mine. So I thought I didn’t need to say: “See? I studied really hard.” Since I was verified a couple of times by reporters and TV programs, I assumed people wouldn’t buy those lies. I couldn’t even dream that so many people would think that I’m lying.
Why do you think these rumors became so prevalent over the past couple of days?
When I saw people were targeting my family with verbal abuse, I sued one netizen [who is accused of spreading rumors about Tablo in the first place] because I didn’t want my father to see all this. His health has been bad for so long. So I sued the guy, but took care to keep a low profile with it. But then one reporter wrote about it, and even people who were not even interested in me started thinking I was lying. I’m the one who sued for malice, and then I felt like I was being judged negatively.
The biggest question among people who are suspicious about you is whether you wrote a paper for your master’s degree.
As you know, every school in the United States has various systems. I don’t need to explain them all. There are some master’s degrees where you have to write papers, but under Stanford’s co-terminal program, I wrote about 20 to 30 pages of thesis for every subject, not like publishing a paper [under the co-terminal program]. There is one thesis I wrote about Andy Warhol. If people search the Web site of Stanford, they would know [all this] but a lot of it was lost in translation. People couldn’t read the English themselves. If somebody translated it for them, they’d believe it’s true.
How do you feel?
I feel damaged. I mean, the things people ask me. If I asked you what happened to you eight, nine, or 10 years ago, you wouldn’t be able to give me exact details. For people to expect me to remember every single last detail in my past, it’s impossible. They can say, “Hey were you really wearing this 10 years ago?” If I say I don’t remember, they say, “You’re hiding something.” If I say I think I was wearing a shirt, they say, “No you weren’t. I have a picture of you wearing a jacket.” This is a type of thing I’m going though right now. This is how you hunt witches, basically. This is how a witch hunt works.
What do you want now?
I don’t care about restoring my public image. What I really want is that no one else is victimized as I have been by a combination of anonymity and malice [in cyberspace]. I hope there will be no more damage to my family. I want my mom and dad to be able to keep their chins up. I hope I could focus on my wife. And for those who love my music and who got hurt by this, I hope they wouldn’t be hurt anymore.