As someone who publicly backed John McAfee’s in the 2020 election, I’m asked from time to time about my support for him. Was it a prank? Was it a troll? Was it a protest vote? Did I mean it? Did I endorse his platform, whatever that may have actually been? My response is: it’s a bit of everything.
Underneath the paranoia and craziness of his last years, beneath a persona that took on what felt like a bit of a forced Hank Scorpio world supervillain act, was someone who understood the very foundations of personal liberty and freedom. As he said in the 2016 Libertarian party debate, ‘Our minds and our bodies belong to us.’ This was a basic foundational principle of his politics — a constitutional tenet that neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden, nor many members of either major political party seem to grasp today. In the end, as we learned yesterday, he would rather check out altogether than have either have his freedoms curtailed by any government.
When I interviewed him for my podcast in November 2019, my first question to him was ‘How many people are actively trying to kill you right now?’ He quipped straight back: ‘I wish I knew!’ It should have dawned on my personally and to anyone who had become accustomed to his somewhat surreal videos on Twitter over the past few years, or his legendarily unrestrained conduct, that no one was going to kill John McAfee except for John McAfee — except maybe Hillary Clinton. The jury is still out. Joke. Sort of.
John possessed an extraordinary emotional intelligence behind the leathery exterior. He had the soul of a poet and composer. In interviews about his latest crypto or blockchain scheme, he would veer off-topic and talk about, say, the genius of John Lennon. That was ultimately the most fascinating thing about him. It made him truly accessible in the social media age. He regularly conversed with his social media followers and responded to unsolicited podcast appearance requests, genuinely because it seemed he loved putting on a show. He had real charisma. John McAfee also built up an entire myth of himself. What was real? What wasn’t? This made him even more absurdly well-suited to the social media age. He understood the media enough to manipulate it. He once mused on Twitter that ‘A world in which dogs write poetry is more believable than the world as seen through the eyes of the media.’ That’s a great line. As old world media collides and colludes with new tech oligarchs, it has become more and more true.
McAfee understood the new tech empires because he helped build them. He would have been an invaluable ally, a lunatic suicide bomber and recruiter, in the coming information-and-techology wars, where the truth is now suppressed by YouTube, Google and Facebook as they preach about ‘false news’. This is a big deal — and McAfee understood that.
I didn’t come of age with Hunter S. Thompson, though of course like almost every other high-school kid or college student I read him. But this Thompson line immediately jumps to mind when I think of McAfee: ‘One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.’ God doesn’t make many of these guys. When he does, he never takes them back. John McAfee is beyond the great blue yonder now, aboard his eternal freedom boat to sea, a drink in hand, still searching for that great white whale to fuck.