John McAfee Might Not Be as Crazy as You Think
If you’re a millionaire tech founder on the run from the law, the one problem you don’t have to worry about is getting enough press.
John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his last name, was firmly lodged in the news cycle for more than a month late last year while on the run from Belize authorities investigating the murder of his neighbor. Since returning to the U.S., however, McAfee has been largely out of the limelight, but he’s working to make sure we don’t forget about him or his exploits completely.
To that end, McAfee has added a new item to his colorful resume: YouTube star. Earlier this summer, he posted an outrageous video to YouTube mocking himself — full of guns, bath salts and scantily clad women — and criticizing the company he founded but no longer runs. That video has since been viewed more than four million times. Now, McAfee is back with a followup (warning: the video below has some NSFW language) which is a bit tamer and claims to set the record straight about his alleged crime, lifestyle and the many women he’s been rumored to keep company with.
“I’m just trying to keep the public awareness of my existence alive until these movies come out,” McAfee said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore., where he recently took up residence. The movies he’s referring to are a feature-length film from Warner Bros based on a Wired article and a documentary about his life from Impact Future Media, both of which should come out next year.
“Secondly, it’s just fun for me,” he says. “I enjoy making fun of myself, I enjoy making fun of the press.”
We chatted with McAfee about his YouTube strategy, why he thinks his videos may help the company he founded and what his next big money-making project will be. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Q&A With John McAfee
This new YouTube video, like the first one from earlier this summer, clearly riffs on your image in the press. Why did you decide to go this route with these videos, rather than, I don’t know, show off your softer side?
Most of the things that I talked about in there were things that the press had very pointedly tacked onto my being and I just thought I would talk to them. Almost every reporter ridiculed the concept that I was actually in disguise and avoiding detection in that fashion, and yet many in the press reported it themselves, like CNN. So I thought I would just point out the absurdity of the press … I’m just making fun of the press and making fun of me, and making fun of what the press says of me.
Can you tell us a little about the creative process for making these videos?
I’m coming up with the ideas. I’m writing the scripts. Some of them I write in conjunction with Chad Essley, the cartoonist who lives here in Portland. I’m having them filmed here in a local studio in Portland. You can see the production value is not particularly high. I’m not trying to produce extraordinary slick videos, just enough that people can see. I’m 67 years old: if I don’t keep busy, I get in trouble. Even if I do keep busy, I get in trouble. That’s the truth of it.
So how do you keep busy these days, besides putting together YouTube videos and coordinating with those making movies and books about your life?
I do keep busy and I’ve got my projects going and I also have two dogs and a wonderful woman that I need to keep entertained as well. Unfortunately, I don’t have many indulgences: I finally bought a piano, and that gives me some time to relax at the end of the day. I think I will settle down here in Portland, it just turned out to be surprisingly more attractive that I had imagined. The city motto is “Keep Portland Weird,” and you see the bumper stickers everywhere. I think I can lend a hand quite respectably in that arena.
What has been the biggest change for you now living in Portland rather than Belize?
I think I am much less active. In Belize, I was always tying and untying boats and doing all the work that’s necessary to live in a tropical environment. Here, I’m much more sedentary. I need to go to a gym and work out or start a yoga program or something. That’s been the biggest change.
At least one study has shown that your exploits have hurt the McAfee brand, and shortly after you released the first YouTube video, the software company responded by calling it “ludicrous.” Is it your intention to take down the brand?
My intent is not to hurt people. The video is obviously tongue-in-cheek. I think in the long run, if the McAfee strategists have their heads screwed on right, they will see that this can not hurt them. First of all, there is no such thing as bad publicity — I can tell you that myself from great experience. Anything that keeps the McAfee software name in the public eye gives their strategists and their marketing people an opportunity. The unfortunate thing that I fear is that a lawsuit is coming because from friends of mine at McAfee, I was told that shortly after the video came out, the McAfee lawyers said no one from McAfee was to contact me or have any discussions with me. You know what that means usually, right? Trust me, I am no stranger to lawsuits — anyone who is perceived to have wealth in America cannot avoid the constant barrage of lawsuits. I’ve had many hundreds. But I think it would be a foolish thing for them to do. They should actually hire me to do some tongue-in-cheek videos for them.
Would you work for McAfee if they offered?
Again, I have no ill will towards McAfee and it is my name attached to it. Trust me, it doesn’t help me any for that software to be considered in the light that it has been considered… I would like to see my name in a more clean and desirable light on a company, so yeah, I think I would help them, of course.
When you arrived back in the U.S. at the end of last year, you told reporters that you were broke. Do you have plans for your next project to make money?
Anybody can make money, trust me. Making money is not difficult, keeping it of course is, especially in this country with constant lawsuits. I do have a technical project that I’m working on; I would prefer not to say anything about it. It does of course involve computers because that’s all that I know. In a few months, I’ll be putting out a small release about it.
Image: Joe Raedle/Getty