When a soul passes from the world it is tempting to canonize the individual, to iron out their wrinkles and to focus only on the good aspects of their life. Yet the story of John McAfee - entrepreneur, visionary, Presidential candidate, fugitive and rogue, was one of a life so filled with interesting wrinkles, that to iron them out would be a disservice to the kind of man he was.
Any honest examination of McAfee must conclude that the man was a scoundrel, but a scoundrel who seemed to embody the pioneering spirit of the early cryptocurrency sector with which he became so entwined. Duller crypto publications may wag their finger at McAfee’s association with a seemingly endless supply of dubious blockchain projects - and they’re not wrong - but at Unmask Crypto we can also appreciate the free-spirited degeneracy that John McAfee brought to the party.
In his later years John McAfee succeeded in transforming himself into a cult anti-hero of sorts. Perhaps that’s down to McAfee’s self-promotion and marketing nous, or perhaps it’s because he speaks to some darker part of our psyche - a part that simply wants to flip off the world and say, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”
For whatever reasons he resonates, today we celebrate the life of an American rebel who lived life to the maximum, remembering some of his finest and most notorious moments.
Early Life and McAfee Antivirus
John McAfee was born on the 18th of September 1945 in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, England. His mother was British, but his father was an American, and the family would later move to Salem in Virginia, where the young John grew up. When he was just 15 John’s life was hit by tragedy when his father comitted suicide. It was an event that McAfee would later say he lived with every day.
McAfee was a bright student and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Roanoke College in Virginia. He worked at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies as well as Xerox, Lockheed Martin and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. It was during his time at the railroad company that the young McAfee consumed an entire bag of the hallucinogen DMT before work. Coincidentally, this was to be his last day at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. According to an interview he gave Wired magazine in 2012 , a part of him continued to wonder if his whole life wasn’t still part of an ongoing trip he’d started in 1969.
It wasn’t until 1987 that John McAfee founded McAfee Associates, the firm which bore his name and made him $100 million by the time he sold it off in 1994. During the intervening 7 years John McAfee had proven to be a charismatic businessman and a master of self-promotion. Though his life so far had delivered some fairly colourful moments, it would merely provide the prologue for an incredible journey yet to come.
King of Belize
Following the financial crash of 2007, McAfee found his personal fortune was greatly reduced. So, he did what any reasonable person might do: he auctioned off everything he owned and retired to Belize. His retirement wasn’t to last long. Soon John had founded an antibiotics firm and a ferry company, and was busying himself in other ways with a long parade of local prostitutes. He eventually bunkered up in a jungle compound with seven of his favourite women, huge quantities of drugs, and an armed militia. John was just getting started however, and decided to build a Police Station in Carmelita, arming the police with semi-automatic weapons and enforcing a curfew on the “lawless” town. According to a report from Business Insider the tech giant wrote: “My fragile connection with the world of polite society has, without a doubt, been severed.” McAfee would later flee Belize to Guatemala, claiming that the government had attempted to frame him for murder.
Joe Rogan Podcast
At some point in 2012 McAfee appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast , but despite fan requests for him to return, the tech entrepreneur claimed he had offended Rogan and would not offer a repeat performance. The details of how he offended Rogan remain unclear, but according to McAfee it involved a long night in Bangkok. If you believe McAfee’s story, trannies, goats, a boa constrictor, and albino twins from Romania were also involved. There are some who believe that John’s recollection of events are not entirely accurate.
How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus
It may sound like a dullest of how-to videos, but in typical McAfee fashion the actual contents of the 2013 video “How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus ” included guns, prostitutes, toe sucking, lighting a cigarette with a flaming banknote, and snorting a big ol’ line of white powder with a curly straw. In the video, after struggling to delete the software bearing his name, the tech guru pulled out a handgun and blew the laptop away. Effective, if final.
Perhaps more than anything, ‘How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus’ established in the public consciousness the roguish McAfee persona that he would lean on so heavily for the rest of his life.
McAfee for President
In 2015 McAfee announced that he was seeking to become the leader of the free world. The original plan was to run for President with the ‘Cyber Party,’ but failing that McAfee traded up for the Libertarian Party. Despite running a campaign that generated seemingly endless headlines, the Libertarian Party instead selected former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as their preferred candidate. For the party it seemed like a sensible choice at the time, after all, who could believe that a controversial outspoken businessman with a history of not paying his taxes could ever become President?
A Betting Man
In 2017 McAfee made a wager that would garner him huge amounts of free publicity and media attention, predicting that Bitcoin would hit $500,000 by 2020 or he would eat his own dick on television. McAfee would then double down on the bet, claiming Bitcoin would reach $1 million and then $2 million. In the end Bitcoin did not hit the heights which McAfee predicted, and he did not eat his dick. He later claimed the whole point of the bet was to create publicity and onboard users.
McAfee on the Run
In his final years McAfee became increasingly erratic, a gun-toting fugitive on the run, living on a yacht in international waters and constantly moving around for fear of arrest. He would make posts claiming to be in various places in the world, but it was never really truly clear where he was or what he was doing. It was a life of looking over his shoulder. On more than one occasion it seemed that authorities had snared the outlaw, but he continued to wriggle his way out of traps with a combination of good lawyers and faked heart attacks.
The beginning of the end came for McAfee when he was arrested in Spain in October 2020, while attempting to board a plane for Turkey. The US justice department alleged that McAfee had evaded his taxes from 2014 to 2018, and that he failed to declare all his earnings from cryptocurrency - a thought which would shock most crypto users deeply.
On June 23rd, 2021, John McAfee was found dead in his prison cell, by suicide, according to reports. It was an eventuality that McAfee had seemingly been prepared for. In November of 2019, McAfee wrote on his Twitter account :
"Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: "We're coming for you McAfee! We're going to kill yourself". I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn't. I was whackd.”
In October 2020 he added , “I am content in here.I have friends.The food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine.”
Did McAfee really believe he would be killed off, or did he perhaps suspect that he might eventually resort to taking his own life, and in one last theatrical flourish decide to sow some seeds of doubt? If so, it would be a final grand piece of theatre to add to his enigma.
Even in death John McAfee was larger than life.
In movies, and specifically the genre of the Western, there is a moment when old cowboys, cattle rustlers, and gunslingers begin to see the shape of their future demise, as the railroad and telegram comes calling, and civilization begins to gentrify the dusty old towns of the once wild west. For cryptocurrency, the passing of John McAfee brings an end to his own particular kind of lawlessness, and marks a changing of the guard.
There is little doubt that cryptocurrency is a far more civilized place without John McAfee, and yet, it’s a lot less colourful and interesting too. For better and for worse, for the good times, the bad, and the ugly ones too, this old maverick was one of ours.
John McAfee: 1945-2021