The best weapon against the world’s most obnoxious people is telling a malicious lie about them, and when that lie withers, lie some more, says the founder of The Daily Currant, a website that produces defamatory articles.
Daniel Barkeley launched Dailycurrant.com in 2012 from his parents’ basement in Michigan, where he had moved after living on the streets for two years in Paris, pickpocketing tourists to pay for his heroin addiction.
Barkeley says that even as a teenager, the destructive power of spreading a convincing, golden lie excited him. When he was in high school, he used to start rumors about popular students, just to see them “get taken down a notch or two.”
“When I was a freshman, I told everyone that this state-champion wrestler named Wes had spent time in juvenile hall because he’d killed a neighbor’s dog with a baseball bat,” Barkeley says. “Wes wasn’t so popular after that. Sweet deception. The powerful need to be kept in check.”
Years later, while a resident in a psychiatric hospital in the French Alps — where he was taking methadone to recover from his dependence on heroin — Barkeley says he began to develop a plan to launch a website dedicated to defaming celebrities, politicians and other people he dislikes.
“What I know firsthand is this: drug addicts will say anything to get more drugs,” Barkeley said. “They don’t care about the truth. It might not be ethical, but at the end of the day, it works.”
While living in Paris, he used to find American tourists and eavesdrop to find out where they were from. Then he would strike up a conversation, claiming he was from the same city.
“I’d tell some bullshit story how I’d been robbed,” Barkeley says, “and that I just needed a hundred euros to take a train to Germany where my brother lives. You know what? Nine times out of ten, it worked. Stupid, gullible idiots believe anything you tell them.”
Who should be defamed?
After returning to the United States to live in his parents’ mansion in Michigan’s exclusive West Bloomfield Township, Barkeley got to work building his website. But one big question remained. Whom should he defame?
In the age of the internet, Barkeley says, people are inundated with news about entertainers, politicians and other jerks. A lot of these celebrities have whiny voices, or they express political beliefs that are different from his own — solid reasons their reputations should be maligned.
Barkeley wasn’t interested in everyday, honest lies that might be viewed as Onion-esque, obvious satire, such as writing a story saying Ann Coulter’s grandparents entered the U.S. illegally, or that she was caught French-kissing Malcolm X’s grandson.
“To really make a point, your lie has to be believable, but more important, really damning,” Barkeley said. “The Daily Currant doesn’t screw around. We’re not here to make anyone laugh. A good, defamatory lie — and one that we published recently — is that Ann Coulter refused to board an airplane because the pilot was black.”
“We should have written that she shouted the n-word before doing a Nazi salute,” Barkeley said. “But that idea just dawned on me. Too late.”
The goal of The Daily Currant, says Barkeley, is to trick uncritical readers into sharing its lies — believing them to be true accounts — despite that his articles often contain spelling errors or violations of journalistic style, clues that might otherwise indicate the source is fishy.
With any luck, Barkeley says, a story goes viral and completely destroys his target’s reputation.
“I mean, who wants to listen to Ann Coulter’s provocations?” Barkeley said. “Isn’t it about time someone shut her up? When people think of Ann Coulter, we want them to recall the time she called a black pilot the n-word, true or not.”
Although it might appear easy to make up despicable lies about people, Barkeley and his collaborators say critics underestimate the difficulty of producing veritable defamation.
“It’s a real art, somewhat like writing satire, but crafting defamation requires more subtlety and talent,” Barkeley said. “People these days can be very skeptical, and they have a way of dismissing as satire any article they sense is fictional.”
Major victory: lying about the douchebag Kanye West
One of the Daily Currant’s biggest successes came when it published an article entitled “Kanye West: ‘I am the next Nelson Mandela.’” The lie was shared almost a million times on Facebook and obliged West to publicly deny the claim. Nevertheless, the damage had been done.
“Kanye West is such a douchebag,” Barkeley said. “I can’t stand that guy. We’re hoping that people stop buying his stupid music, all thanks to our clever little slight of the pen.”
What does Barkeley think about people who try to dispel his defamatory claims by posting in the site’s comments section things like, “THIS IS A SATIRE SITE, DUMMIES!”
“Those trolls are annoying,” Barkeley said. “They’re ruining the fun for everyone.”
Who will be The Daily Currant’s next target?
“Probably Rand Paul,” Barkeley said. “We’re working on a killer defamatory piece in which we claim he paid someone to kill an IRS agent. I mean, he hates the IRS, doesn’t he?”
“Or maybe not,” he added. “Maybe we’ll defame someone else instead. That’s what’s fun about this business. We can switch targets at the drop of the hat. You might even be next.”