Okay, so I’m perusing an article in the online edition of the New York Post and the first words to meet my eyes are “eyeball-licking.” Eyeball-licking! Yuck! Who in their right mind would ever do such a thing?
Then I read where it’s an “epidemic in Japan” caused by “a dangerous craze” that is reportedly the rage “among Japanese schoolkids.” Oh "Japan," that explains it, 'nuff said. No reason for me (or anybody else apparently) to bother lifting the lid on this story and giving it a second look. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just another link in a long chain of weird news stories in the US press that seem to be more often than not made in Japan for some odd reason.
Fortunately Tokyo-based writer, Mark Schreiber, did take a second look. He discovered that this strange story 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 must have pulled some pretty sophisticated tools out of his reporter's bag to debunk this hoax heard round the world. It would seem he employed some kind of communications device (perhaps a telephone), which he used 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,” Schreiber says, which leads me to believe that there is more to the Post’s story than meets the eye.
(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:
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)