“An "eyeball licking" fetish seems to be spreading pink eye among Japanese school children, who describe the act, also known as oculolinctus, as an expression of intimacy between young lovers,” writes Ashik Siddique in the Medical Daily (MD). It was the beginning of a weird tale that has made its way around the world. In fact Fox News cites MD* as the source of its article on the subject. It’s a source you can trust apparently. According to the online publication’s About page, “Medical Daily strives to provide timely, coherent, and accurately sourced information...” One of those said sources mentioned in Siddique’s article is the Japanese website Naver Matome.
Now if you’re an MD reader, you might be thinking, “I’ve never heard of Naver Matome but it must rank right up there with an accurate source like the Journal of the American Medical Association, etc.” Well think again. A recent feature story in the Number One Shimbun by Tokyo-based writer, Mark Schreiber tells a whole other story. In his article, Schreiber describes Naver Matome as a “slick website” run by an “IT firm that provides applications and games for mobile phones.” Not exactly the Journal of the American Medical Association or anything like it but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, maybe just deserving of a second opinion. So I turned to Schreiber again.
After scratching the surface Schreiber discovered that Naver Matome got the story from Butch (Bucchi) News, a less-than-mainstream website produced by Core Magazine, a less-than-reputable institution whose offices Schreiber notes were recently “raided by police on suspicion of obscenity.” Besides that, the Tokyo-based scribe goes on to chronicle that in 2006 an editor of one of Core’s biggest magazines “had the distinction of becoming the first person in Japan arrested under new laws banning child pornography.”
These were all symptoms that something was terribly wrong with this story that was published by MD along with a host of other media outlets across the globe. The warning signs were no doubt part of what prompted Schreiber to reach into his reporter’s bag for some state-of-the-art tools that he could use to dissect this hoax heard round the world. It would seem he employed some kind of communications device (perhaps a telephone), which he used to consult a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations, a school clinicians’ organization and other medical professionals. “None of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about,” Schreiber says.
If they used emergency color codes in journalism like they do in the medical field, MD’s article might just be a code brown.
*If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em (MediaBugs Report for Fox News Error)
Portions of this post have appeared in related MediaBugs reports filed by JT Cassidy.
If you want a real eye-opener, take a look at "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber and read how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way into online publications like MNT as well as the pages of newspapers, magazines, and more all around the world.
Also see: "In the Public Eye" on Snopes.com
Related MediaBugs reports:
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)
Medical Daily has responded in the comment section below and corrected its article.
Kudos to the editor of Medical Daily as well as everyone concerned for responding so quickly and setting the record straight!