Be A Crazy One
A misfit. A rebel. A troublemaker. A round peg in a square hole. See things differently.
On June 23rd, I woke up to the news that John McAfee had died in his prison cell in Spain. This was immediately following news that he would be extradited to the US to face charges of tax evasion.
It still doesn’t feel real. I keep expecting to learn that he escaped and ran off on a yacht with his wife to live on some island somewhere in the Pacific. If someone told me that, I’d be inclined to believe them.
John McAfee was my friend. Most people know him as the founder of McAfee AntiVirus, and have heard some wild rumors of his adventures in Belize. I was familiar with his public persona, but I was lucky enough to get to know him personally.
John ran for the Libertarian nomination for President in 2016, and chose my partner, Judd Weiss, as his running mate (I broke the story on TLR). This launched us into quite an adventure, and during that campaign and for a year or two afterwards, I got to know John, and his wife, reasonably well.
John lit up a room, constantly inspired laughter, and he was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
When I met John, he was new to the Libertarian Party, and he was still trying to memorize or come up with policy for his campaign. He had plenty of advisors, and he absorbed their advice and information quickly, and adopted much of it readily.
I remember one day I explained the concept of the non-aggression principle (something he had heard referenced but we really dived into the concept, as well as my general thoughts on "would I kill to make this law?"). I watched him think about it for a few minutes, and then it's as if he applied a filter on his brain, so that when he was asked questions in debates he just ran it past the filter. Even if the idea hadn't come across his mind before - any hypothetical. He'd just run it through the new NAP filter in his brain, and pop out a libertarian answer.
I was honored at his speech in 2016 in front of the convention to hear him use words that I had written - about how the Libertarian party ticket is not just about electing the Libertarian candidate to the White House, but about electing Liberty in the hearts and the minds of the people. I would send him my articles so that he would have a deeper understanding of details of certain topics or issues, and I would hear him use the phrases that I used in them. (I’m so mad I can’t find a clip on C-Span of his nominating speech).
He was so quick and he was so smart and he was always so kind to me. The first time I met him in person he liked my tattoos (and asked me before touching them, which I appreciated) and even though he was in a suit talking to donors and guests, he saw my tattoos, quickly loosened his tie, unbuttoned and opened his shirt and showed me his tattoos excitedly. (Thanks to Yaakov Markel for this picture of that moment).
John was batshit crazy, but it was always a good time.
John was also profoundly generous - with his time, attention, and with second chances.
(Also the following exchange cracked me up and was SO John)
It was no secret that his wife was a former prostitute. I loved how much he loved Janice, and how he harbored no issue with her former profession (he used to happily tell me that the first thing she ever said to him was “you look like you could use a blowjob”).
The thing was - she wasn’t the only person close to him with a past. If he met you and he learned you had a history of drug use, sex work, criminal charges, even jail or prison time, he didn’t see that as an obstacle, he saw that as an opportunity to give you a chance that others might not. People around him had pasts and criminal records and all sorts of things, and they were profoundly loyal because he cared about them and trusted them when others didn’t. I’m just saying: If I ever needed to hide a body I’d have asked his bodyguard - that guy seemed like a man who’d hidden some bodies in his time.
Second chances: I loved that about him, so much. I’m going to miss that about him, so much.
I know that he was surrounded by controversy. I know there are unsavory accusations about him (real crimes not stupid government victimless crimes). I can't comment on the veracity of them, but the man I knew was kind and gentle and smart and funny. I remember him that way.
There’s been a lot of talk about what happened. The official story is that he committed suicide. Those closest to him (including his wife, lawyers, and former employees who’d spoken to him recently) don’t believe it, saying he didn’t seem suicidal at all and seemed ready to keep fighting.
On one hand, I believe them. I believe that he wanted to keep fighting. I believe that he said he wouldn’t commit suicide and he didn’t. I certainly find his suicide suspicious, and I’d like it to be investigated (though I’m sure the result will be a “we investigated ourselves and did nothing wrong” either way).
But as much as I believe John wouldn’t go out without a fight, I also know two things: 1. that suicidal people who actually intend to commit suicide don’t want to be stopped and often misdirect people, and 2. that telling everybody he’d never commit suicide, fueling conspiracy theories with tattoos and statements, and then doing so is exactly the sort of thing he’d do too. He was an agent of chaos, and I say this with all affection.
He used to tell us “it’s not lying, it’s disinformation”. After police picked him up in 2015 for driving under the influence of Xanax, he referred to being in a shootout with the police (which didn’t happen). He admitted in 2012 to faking a heart attack to avoid deportation to Belize. During the 2016 campaign, I heard from someone (who indicated they got the story from him) that he was being questioned by the government about something in the Panama papers which is why he couldn’t attend an event, when in reality he’d had the flu. Also in 2016, he skipped one of the LP debates and claimed he’d missed it to compete in a “whale fucking contest”. In 2017, he missed his Freedom Fest appearance when he suffered a blood clot, but his public comments said there had been an attempt on his life.
I loved his ridiculous stories, and in some part I actually feel bad confirming his tendency towards “disinformation” because the fact is he would want you to remember the crazy stories. He would want you to believe everything about him, and nothing about him too. He’d want people to have no idea what to think.
Which works out great, because nobody really knows the truth. I have no idea what to think and nobody else does either. Certainty is a luxury we don’t have with a man like John.
Except one certainty:
John is dead, whether by his own hand or someone else’s, because of taxes. He should have been home with his wife, living and loving freely, but instead he was in a jail cell because the government decided they needed to forcibly extract a portion of his income from him, and he refused.
Here’s a story that’s 100% true:
Several months after the 2016 convention, there was an investor event for John’s company MGT here in Los Angeles, at my home (at the time I wasn’t living here, but it’s Judd’s house). He informed Judd that he needed a private room for a little bit, in order to get a tattoo, and that he promised “not to get ink everywhere”. It turned out it was his wife’s birthday and she’d had to stay home, so he got her birthdate (12-8-1982) tattooed onto his chest, with the words “the most important day of the year”. It’s not the only tattoo he had referencing her, but it’s the one he got in the next room over from where I’m writing this. (You can see it briefly in this video).
I like to imagine he’s not really dead. The escaped-with-Janice theory is my favorite.
One aspect of the 2016 McAfee/Weiss campaign was that Judd made a series of campaign “ads” for the nomination. Judd wanted to show what an inspirational, appealing, and dynamic campaign could look like. They’re all great, and can be seen in this playlist on YouTube.
My favorite one is still this one:
This video (which features John’s voice), among Judd’s others, has had a ripple effect in the liberty movement long after the 2016 campaign. When Vermin Supreme was campaigning for the 2020 nomination, his campaign videos were inspired in part by those. My endorsement of Vermin came in part from my learnings in the 2016 campaign (and honestly every presidential election campaign I’ve worked on since 2004).
John McAfee’s legacy will last long beyond his death. In the true stories, in the crazy unbelievable stories, and in the mysteries of what really happened. I will miss his presence in the world, creating more chaos.
Here's to the crazy ones, like John.
Here’s to the crazy ones, like us.