“Japanese school kids licking each other’s eyeballs is a thing now,” called out the Daily Caller headline. Strangely it all sounded oddly familiar. I've read about this weird phenomenon taking Japanese middle schools by storm somewhere but where? Now I remember. I read about it on the Internet so it must be a “thing.”
Unless of course Japanese kids licking each other's eyeballs isn’t a "thing." In fact Tokyo-based writer, Mark Schreiber took a good look at the whole thing and discovered that this strange tale which was covered by news outlets across the globe not only stretched back to Japan but stretched the truth to its extreme limits. Writing in the Number 1 Shimbun, Schreiber says that “it was not especially difficult to at least cast doubts on the sweeping claim that large numbers of Japanese adolescents were suffering from an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye.”
The urban myth-buster from Tokyo went so far as to contact 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,” he says. I imagine that kind of investigation and fact-checking is what they call good journalism. I guess that’s a "thing" too.
(A version of this post has appeared on 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 MediaBug reports: