“Kids in Japan are licking each other's eyeballs and getting conjunctivitis,” reported MSN News Canada last June 13. After seeing that report I think I can safely say I’ve seen it all. Plus I’m seeing this story all over the place so it’s got to be true. Not only that, it’s made in Japan and anybody who has traveled our trustworthy information highway knows for a fact that that country produces more weird news stories it seems than automobiles, electronics, and manga combined. So “apparently,” as MSN News reporter, Francis Whittaker, aptly notes, “eyeball licking is totally a Thing in Japan now.”
Unless of course it 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.
(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:
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)