AOL Quick Fix (“news fast with a side of funny”) reports that “a new sexual fetish is sweeping through Japanese middle schools and it’s real disgusting.” Going on in lurid detail to describe the practice dubbed elsewhere as 'worming' (a.k.a. eyeball licking), reporter Cameron Edmondson explains that “the fetish has been causing pinkeye outbreaks all over Japan.”
While that sounds bad enough, listen to this. Edmonson notes that “when they asked one sixth grade class how many kids have licked eyes, a third of the class raised their hands!”
Now the funny side of this Quick Fix report is that Edmonson somehow finds a way to blame the bizarre and health-menacing behavior on an American actor and rock and roller of some note. What may be even funnier still is that there’s barely a lick of truth to the whole sordid tale.
Writing in the Number One Shimbun, the journal of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, Mark Schreiber peels back the lid on the eyeball licking story to find there is a lot less to it than meets the eye. While accounts of Japanese school kids triggering a pinkeye epidemic after licking each other’s eyes have managed to creep across the pages of countless newspapers and more across the globe, Schreiber was the first to blink, questioning the story’s veracity.
The Tokyo-based scribe no-doubt reached deep into his reporter’s bag for some state-of-the-art tools to dissect this hoax heard round the world. Employing some kind of communications device (perhaps a telephone), he went so far as to contact a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations, a school clinicians’ organization and other medical professionals to verify the story. “None of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about,” Schreiber says. Now that does sound funny.
Related MediaBugs reports (the same error repeated over and over again):
Fox Takes Eye off Eyeball Story (Fox 29 News, Philadelphia) Eye Network Loses Sight of Facts (CBS Atlanta); In the Shadow of Doubt (Toronto Sun); The Hot Trend That's Not (PIX 11 News, New York); Houston We Have a Problem (KRIV-TV, Fox 26 in Houston, Texas); The Spread (Houston Chronicle); Seeing Eye to Eye (Huffington Post/UK edition); Eye Witless News Report (ABC News); UPI Out of Focus (United Press International); Another Code Brown! (Medical Daily); Entertaining... Licks Telling the News (ABC2 News, WMAR-TV, Baltimore); Didn't Get the Memo (New Zealand Herald); Here is the Thing (MSN News Canada) Fatal Error (CTV News Canada); Time to Correct? (Time Magazine); More Than Meets the Eye (New York Post); A Cock-eyed Story (New York Daily News); Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard); Bucking the Trend That Wasn't (The Times of India); If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em (Fox News); Not a Lick of Truth (The Telegraph); Eye Network Lacks Nose for Fishy Stories (CBS News); Calling Out the Daily Caller (The Daily Caller); Code Brown (Medical News Today); Gawk at This! (Gawker); Not a Thing (The San Francisco Chronicle); Less Than Meets the Eye (The Guardian); A Blind Eye to the Truth (Huffington Post); Falling for a Fake Story... (The Washington Times)
Disappeared (story deleted by news org.):
Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard)