“Eyeball-licking fetishism, also known as "oculolinctus" or "worming", has become a popular way of expressing affection or inciting sexual arousal in Japan,” writes Christian Nordqvist in his June 16 Medical News Today (MNT) article. According to MNT’s hompage, “Medical News Today brings you hourly health news from well-regarded sources such as JAMA, BMJ, Lancet, BMA, ...” Apparently one such source not on that list is the source mentioned in Nordqvist’s article, the Japanese website Naver Matome.
Now if you’re an MNT reader, you might be thinking, “I’ve never heard of Naver Matome but it must rank right up there with JAMA and BMA.” 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.
After scratching the surface Schreiber discovered that Naver Matome got the story from Butch (Bucchi) News, a subculture 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 MNT and a host of other Western media outlets. These warning signs were no doubt part of what prompted Schreiber to consult some medical professionals about this dubious claim of an eyeball licking-induced epidemic sweeping through Japan’s junior high schools. The journalist says that after contacting 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.”
If they used emergency color codes in journalism like they do in the medical field, MNT’s article might just be a code brown.
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.
Related MediaBug reports:
Medical News Today (MNT) editor, Alastair Hazell, contacted me via email to notify me of the decision by the MNT editorial team and the article's author to amend the story. The article now includes a detailed update indicating the story to be a hoax.