Last week you had the chance to ask software designer and international man on the run John McAfee about his exploits in business, programming, and the jungle. Mr. McAfee provided some extraordinarily entertaining and frank answers to your questions. Read below and enjoy.
Do you still write code, perhaps for fun?
McAfee: I haven't written code in 20 years. In truth I was a terrible programmer. At all the companies I worked at I did everything within my power to avoid coding tasks. I was just good enough though to be able to spot the truly outstanding programmers. At McAfee I hired the best and then stayed out of their hair. If I had been responsible for even a tiny amount of code I fear we would never have gotten off the ground.
Doesn't it bother you that your name is being used to peddle one of the worst anti-virus products on the market? Often it comes pre-installed on computers as a 30 day trial (crapware), with dire warnings flashed up in the event that the user fails to pay (scareware). The performance hit it brings is huge. Would you advise anyone else to name their product/company after themselves in this way?
McAfee: I haven't been involved with McAfee Ant-virus for 21 years. When I ran the company the software was the best and least intrusive on the market, and in 1991 we had 87% of the world market. What happened after I left was none of my doing. As to name association, I am a master at sullying my own name and, all things considered, being associated with the worst software on the planet ranks way down the pole. It's barely a blip in the ocean of associations - madman, paranoid, child molester, murderer, drug addict, unstable, liar, to name but a few.Thank god I'm 67 and will probably be too hard of hearing soon enough to have to listen to them rattling around wherever I go. Amy, thankfully, did half the job already by bursting my left eardrum when she tried to shoot me in the head while I slept back in 2011.
What was the problem?
If I understand correctly, this whole episode began because a local politician visited you in your home and he had the expectation (for whatever reason) that you would pay him USD $30,000 as some kind of protection money for his campaign and your expectation was that politicians are supposed to work for people and not the other way around. Is this a reasonable characterization? If so, how do you think such a large missmatch in expectations came about? Do you think you were overly naive? Or is the political environment in Belize changing? I can easily believe that this might be the normal expected way that people do business down there based on other things I've heard, but I really have no idea. Now that you've had time to reflect, what would you say was responsible for the conflict in the first place?
McAfee: Had it been $30,000 I would have paid it in an instant, ushered him out and then returned to my task of molesting the underage girls (as some would characterize them) populating my property.However it was not. It was $2 million.I am not naive and I expect politicians and public servants, in all countries, to do one thing only - everything in their power to annoy, delay and inconvenience me. At least that has been my experience with public servants. Perhaps yours is different. In any case, two million was not even in a negotiating arena and, not being someone prone to wasting time, I told him to fuck off and not to come back.
German tourist disguise
Did you really evade the police by dressing up in a speedo and screaming at people in German, as you describe here?
McAfee: I favor disguises that change character rather than looks when running from the police. The German Tourist disguise was terrific. I looked exactly like me but no-one searching for me paid me any mind. Here is another common disguise I used that would work for any well known CEO.
While you were moving around, Vice.com got to spend time with you. If memory serves me, it was later revealed that the image they uploaded with you had GPS data that you then claimed to be spoofed. Coincidentally the news styled documentary they were going to do with you never seemed to surface ... now that things have died down can you give more context to that whole situation?
McAfee: Yes....... well...... The exif data attached to the photo was supposed to have been removed prior to putting it on-line. Rocco Castoro, the senior editor at Vice, and Robert King, the intrepid war photographer who has been shot twice in the ass and proudly shows the scars, accompanied me for 11 days of my escape. Good comrades and brave companions - not quite the balls that Samantha, who also accompanied me, swings, but brave lads nevertheless. We became fast friends. After our escape from Belize and our illegal entry into Guatemala, we were all four breathing sighs of relief and were in good cheer. I went back to Samantha's and my room for a few minutes to search Sam's luggage for weapons. There were too many good looking women at the hotel for my comfort. Samantha is extremely jealous and twice tried to stab me when she thought I was looking at another woman.In any case, I happily found no weapons and was about to return to the group when I heard a knock at the door. It was a very agitated Rocco. "Bad news" he said.
Chills ran up my spine as I imagined Samantha sweet talking the hotel security guard into lending her his gun after seeing me glance at the undulating derrière of a striking Peruvian woman an hour or so earlier.
He then told me about the location data accidentally included in the photo and that there were already posts on the Net showing google earth images of the hotel we were staying at.It didn't sound so bad to me really - not in comparison to an angry Samantha.It meant that Guatemalan soldiers had probably already been dispatched to arrest us and that we were on the run again - this time from a different authority, but we had at least a half an hour before the authorities arrived and taxis, which did in fact effect our escape, were plentiful. I didn't see a problem.
Robert was beside himself with agitation about the exif data because, as he correctly reasoned, people were going to think that he and Rocco did it on purpose so that they could get a better story by documenting my colorful arrest In Guatemala. To calm things down and to get everyone focused on our need to hastily scram, I told Rocco and Robert that I would take the fall and claim that I manipulated the exif data myself and they would be in the clear. Satisfied, they got packed, we left 10 minutes before the soldiers arrived, and i did what I said I would do.It was a stupid plan but it did clear the minds of the two journalists long enough to allowthem to function properly in the shaky circumstances.
When we got to Guatemala City that night and we were safely ensconced in a new hotel, Sam hit me in the head with an ashtray.She she had not missed the overlong glance at the Peruvian woman.I still have the scar.
What would you do differently?
If you had to relive the whole debacle, what would you do differently the second time around.
McAfee: Absolutely nothing. Everything that has happened has brought me to this present moment - and not a bad moment at all. You may view my life as chaotic, tragic, comical, whatever. From where I sit it's a great adventure and an unending mystery. I have no complaints.
Why did you decide to camp out in Portland for 18 months? What was it about Portland that brought you there?
McAfee: Why not Portland? Everyone here has bumper stickers reading "Keep Portland Weird!", there are 17 Asian restaurants within a three block radius of where I live, coffee here is a high art form and the police smile and are actually helpful - providing that no risks are involved.
A couple of subordinate reasons are that the gentleman producing the comic novel of my life (Chad Essley) and the screenwriter for the feature movie of the Belize incident both live here.
As a microbiologist...
I'm very interested in hearing about the natural antibiotics. Can you please describe some general background about how you became interested in the project and what happened to the project?
McAfee: I became interested in quorum sensing (the means of communication favored by bacteria) the instant I heard about the concept. I hired a young Phd who had written the definitive paper on the subject - a young woman named Allison Adonicio - and set up a lab in the jungle to research anti-quorum sensing properties of tropical plants. You can read all about it at quorumex.com. Against all odds, the woman turned out to be crazier than myself. After a year and a half, the fractured elements of her psyche reassembled themselves into an exact likeness of a snarling ferret and she self destructed. She destroyed all of our research results, destroyed our bacteria samples, erased the hard drives of our computers, destroyed our carefully collect plant samples and went home to Boston. I cogitated the situation for a brief period, said "Fuck it!" And went into the coffee business. Thus was formed the New River Coffee Company.
Why George Jung?
"Boston George" Jung (a man who has lived quite an unusual life himself) has been tapped to write McAfee's biography titled, No Domain. I don't get it. Jung is a convicted drug smuggler. You have had no such charges ever filed against you (to my knowledge) by the United States so, if nothing more than a publicity stunt, why did you pick him to write your biography? If you feel you are wrongly accused, I can understand why you would pick someone wrongly accused to write your biography -- they can relate. But George Jung was certainly a key part of Pablo Escobar's deadly and pervasive criminal organization. You are (again, to my knowledge) far from that so why bait the readers with that author as a link? I have had very little associations with you and illegal drug activity but now I think you view yourself as a modern George Jung, am I wrong in making this assumption?
McAfee: It's odd that people focus on the possibility that I might now be doing drugs (I'm not) and totally ignore the fact that from 1971 to 1982, 99% of my income came from smuggling and selling drugs. It's a well documented feature of my past life. I was also taking more drugs weekly than most of you will do in a lifetime, and I was a totally indiscriminate user. Whatever came across my desk went up my nose, down my throat, in my veins or up the nether region. I never reached the notoriety of George and my writing, in comparison to him, did not merit writing books about my exploits, but we were not so totally different, he and I. I had my right testicle shattered by a hammer in 1974 when I ran afoul of some local drug barons in Oaxaca. Its the size of a grape now and shaped like a small frisbee. I have been in Mexican jails on three separate occasions and, frankly, I cannot recommend them. I was arrested in Bristol Tennessee in 1971 and charged with felony possession of a dangerous narcotic. A good lawyer got me of. (I always, oddly had tons of money that helped integrate me slightly back into humanity and smooth my transgressions).
All this madness stopped in 1982 when my life disintegrated. I joined AA in 1982 and stopped drinking and drugging. If have not used any drugs, except for caffeine, nicotine and adrenaline, since.
In any case, George seemed perfect.