|When H meets I|
Okay, so I’m perusing an article by Stuart Heritage in the Guardian’s Shortcuts blog 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 says “this is an article about oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan.”
Oh Japan, that explains it, 'nuff said. No reason for me or anybody else 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 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.”
While I admittedly have no idea what the Guardian’s intrepid reporter did to get his story, the urban myth-buster from Tokyo went so far as to practice journalism (go figure), 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,” Schreiber says, which leads me to believe that there is a lot less to the Guardian’s story than meets the eye.
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.
Find, or file your own, related reports at MediaBugs.org (a sort of crowd-sourced news correction service) under "Recent Bugs."
One more thought:
In taking a good hard look at the source of this story, Schreiber discovered it to be Butch (Bucchi) News, a questionable website produced by Core Magazine. Core is a less-than-reputable institution whose offices, Schreiber notes, were “raided by police on suspicion of obscenity last April.” Not only that, the editor of one of Core’s biggest magazines, Schreiber points out, “had the distinction of becoming the first person in Japan arrested under new laws banning child pornography.”
I am a parent of a Japanese adolescent so this hoax did hit kind of close to home but I’m pretty certain no parent anywhere in the world would want to have his or her child looked upon through a distorted lens like the one held up by Naver Matome or Butch News.
A version of this post was originally published on MediaBugs.org.
In the Guardian: "The readers' editor on… how we fell into the trap of reporting Japan's eyeball-licking craze as fact."
In his August 25 Open Door column, Chris Elliott, the readers' editor for the Guardian, cites an apology from writer Stuart Heritage and notes how the paper dropped the ball on this story.
Heritage is a popular and witty writer for an excellent paper, the Guardian. The Guardian was certainly not alone in reporting on this trend that was not but its fix to the story puts it head and shoulders above the pack of less responsible media outlets who refuse to set the record straight.