NZ filmmaker David Farrier uncovers 'tickling epidemic' in US military

Kiwi documentary filmmaker David Farrier has published a report on a paid "tickling epidemic" said to have infiltrated the US armed forces. 

The report contains allegations that countless soldiers were paid large sums of money to perform in fetish videos which were later made public without their consent.

Farrier, a former Newshub journalist, first shone a light on the bizarre world of tickling fetish videos in 2016 with Tickled. The film alleged former assistant high school principal David D'Amato had targeted young men for his "competitive endurance tickling" videos, luring them with thousands of dollars and paid travel before extorting and exploiting them when they no longer wished to participate. 

In his latest revelations, laid out in a two-part essay on his personal website, Farrier quotes several former US marines who admitted they were involved with the now-deceased millionaire's "tickling empire". 

The interviews were conducted in the pursuit of a potential Tickled sequel which never came to fruition, Farrier explained. 

"I met with two men who were ex-USMC and spoke with a model linked to them in New York, who said David D'Amato had created havoc on various USMC bases between 2009 and 2010 with tickling leagues," Farrier told Newshub. 

"I was told it lead to disciplinary action. One of the ex-marines told me it was referred to as 'the tickle epidemic'."

A model called Nathan told Farrier he recruited participants via his brother, who was a marine. He said there were many men from different platoons involved in producing the videos in the navy barracks, which involved "group tickling" and "pinning people down in specific different ways to be tickled as instructed". 

One of the "ticklees", who gave Farrier the pseudonym 'Lance' to protect his identity, claimed he had "tripled his income" by participating in the videos. 

"I know my platoon personally brought in probably $400,000," he said.

"$350,000 to $400,000. Every branch of service has had people do this - every branch of the military, the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Coastguard.”

When Lance decided he didn't want to make any more videos, he alleges D'Amato published his tickling videos online and shared his personal information before going to colonels, generals and sergeant majors at his base. 

Another participant using the name 'Will' recalled a time when his colonel had to address four battalions of marines amid rumours of involvement with the "tickling empire". 

"It was very interesting, because the colonel found out about it, and he was the highest-ranking person stationed there. So all 600 of us met at the same time on the parade deck, and he started talking to us all," said Will.

"And he seemed shocked. He was like, 'I don’t know how this came about or why, but I have to tell you that you are no longer to be tickled on film in the barracks!'

"It was like he could not fathom why he was having to say this to people. He couldn't understand what was happening." 

Interviewees claimed there had been a nine-month-long Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation, which resulted in marines being demoted, charged with conduct unbecoming and even kicked off the force. 

When Farrier questioned how the story had not leaked publicly until now, he was told the military "put a dampener on it". 

"There were directives sent out. We were ordered not to talk about it or discuss it. We were pulled out of formation and identified as 'f****ts' - not my word, theirs. We tried to talk to public affairs about it, just to be our own advocates... we tried but they were like, 'No'. It would make the Marine Corps look bad." 

D'Amato 'died suddenly' in 2017 at the age of 55, according to an obituary published in The New York Times.