Okay, so I’m eyeing over an article in Time Magazine online and the first words to meet my eyes are “eyeball-licking.” Eyeball-licking! No way, who in their right mind would do that? Then I read where “the revelation went viral this week after the Chinese news site Shanghaiist reported that Japanese schoolchildren are getting aroused by licking each other’s eyeballs.” It all sounded stranger still but the Time piece indicates that the Shanghaist sourced its story from another website, Japan Crush, which was translating the story off of the Japanese blog, Naver Matome. I guess if it’s on the Interweb it must be true.
Guess again says Tokyo-based journalist, Mark Schreiber. Writing in the Number One Shimbun,Schreiber tells a whole other story. He lifts the lid on the now widespread tale of a Japanese eyeball licking epidemic to reveal how Naver Matome originally picked it up from the not-exactly-mainstream website, Butch (Bucchi) News. Butch, he explains, is 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.”
The source's shady background seemed to have cast a shadow of doubt in the mind of the urban myth-buster from Tokyo who 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 me to believe that after getting lost somewhere on the information highway, Time’s Olivia B. Waxman somehow lost sight of the truth.
(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:
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)