“Eyeball licking spreading pinkeye in Japan.” After seeing this headline in the SFGate, the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, 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 reliable 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 SFGate reporter Jennifer Wadsworth aptly notes, “Today in the world of weird, eyeball licking’s a thing in Japan.”
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.
Read "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber to learn more about how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way to the pages of newspapers, etc. all around the globe.
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