The Tablo Story: A Disturbing Case of Motivated Reasoning and the Internet

By Chris Mooney | July 27, 2011 2:10 pm

You have got to read this entire feature story in the Stanford Magazine about Korean hip hop star Daniel Lee (aka Tablo), whose fell under attack from websites who asserted that he hadn’t really graduated from Stanford. He had, but like the hard core birthers, Tablo’s detractors refused to accept any evidence he could provide to document his academic background (like, say, an official university transcript). Meanwhile, the Korean media covered the story by telling “both sides.” Excerpt:

Black [the Stanford registrar] repeatedly confirmed that Daniel Lee the English major was a graduate in good standing but that only seemed to create more agitation. Some emailed to question Black’s integrity, suggesting that he was colluding with Lee. Black got angry. “These people don’t want the truth,” he says. “They dismiss everything that doesn’t align with what they already believe.”

Lee continued to fight back. On August 5, 2010, he released his Canadian citizenship certificate to the press. To his astonishment, he was promptly sued by four anonymous Koreans who charged him with forgery.

“I was doing everything they asked and it was never good enough,” Lee says. “That’s when I realized that they weren’t looking for answers, they just wanted to destroy me.”

Korean media widely reported the suit, which only served to further sow doubt about Lee’s identity among the general population. Gossip-oriented celebrity sites pored over every detail of the charges; the mainstream press even covered the case. The fact that Stanford had officially confirmed Lee’s diploma did not seem to check the flow of articles. By midsummer, Lee’s travails had become one of the biggest news stories in the country.

When is humanity going, like, to wake up and realize that it is part of our nature to generate claims that comport with what we want to believe, and then refuse to admit any contrary evidence, often becoming even more sure of ourselves the more the factual refutations come in?

This part of human nature isn’t just irrational–it can be destructive, and the Internet compounds it. We need to see it for what it is, and broadly acknowledge that it is part of us.

Read the rest of the story here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Motivated Reasoning

Comments (5)

  1. Sounds like a heavy dose of confirmation bias.

  2. Prof.Pedant

    “When is humanity going, like, to wake up and realize that it is part of our nature to generate claims that comport with what we want to believe, and then refuse to admit any contrary evidence, often becoming even more sure of ourselves the more the factual refutations come in?”

    Where I disagree with you is not in acknowledging that this, and other unproductive, characteristics exist. You appear to feel that because characteristics like this are part of our nature we should not attempt to support the rationality and reason that is available to people. I acknowledge imperfections in humanity and seek to understand them so that we can do an even better job of striving for perfection.

  3. Johnny

    Chris Mooney didn’t really go to Yale University. His degree is fake. You heard it here first. :)

    Satire aside, what kind of country is korea where they care about their favorite rapper’s post docs? I mean I know that they take education seriously, but wow.

    American rappers are exceedingly unqualified it seems.

  4. Brian Too

    @3. Johnny,

    It’s the feared rapper education gap! We must immediately launch a crash upgrading program to establish scholarly rap superiority!! Otherwise Korea might take the hip out of our hip-hop!!! ;-)

    What? Oh.

  5. Dan

    And in the Philippines, Hubert Webb spent more than ten years behind bars after being convicted for killing a family of three women, even though records show he was in the US when the crime was committed in the Philippines. Not even authentication by the American State Department of his visit swayed the lower courts. He was eventually freed by the PHL Supreme Court but a lot of people here still would not believe what the records say. To them, the US Government is in cahoots with the Webb family.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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