John McAfee, the cybersecurity founding father, subject of a forthcoming feature film starring Michael Keaton about his adventures in Belize (which ended with him suspected of murdering a neighbor), and international adventurer (and consensual whale sex advocate) has announced his intention for a second run for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination. In 2016, he came in third with 14 percent of the delegate votes at the Libertarian National Convention on the first ballot.
In a phone interview yesterday, from what he told me were international waters after having visiting a U.S. consulate in the Bahamas, McAfee announced his campaign will be run in exile. He's currently living on a boat, and expects he might be for the foreseeable future.
He's certain a federal grand jury out of Tennessee has convened that will likely indict him for charges related to income taxes and cybercurrency. "I've known it's coming for well over a year," he says. "There are no secrets in the world; how ridiculous to think a grand jury is secret? If more than one person knows something, it's not a secret. I've been preparing to get out of town well ahead of the IRS collecting me."
McAfee insists he, his wife Janice, and four unnamed associates will be indicted by a grand jury, an institution he considers barbaric and finds curious that only the U.S. and Liberia still use (though many argue that at least a jury of peers, even if highly manipulable by prosecutors, is better than just allowing state prosecutors to directly indict).
McAfee is cagey about how often and where he might have to hit land in his oceanic exile. "The nice thing about a large boat is we can cruise anywhere, and pull in anywhere. We are flexible; the IRS is not. We are quick; the IRS is slow. We are well ahead of the curve, and the IRS are well behind it." He believes his recent run as a promoter of cybercurrency, which promises to limit the government's ability to identify and take our assets, has marked him for punishment.
But his campaign for the L.P. nomination will do just fine; he intends to have an army composed of what he says are over four thousand volunteers appear in McAfee masks on "street corners, in parks, amusement parks, hotel lobbies" around America at the same time "once a month or more frequently" and deliver messages direct from him.
"I will say, 'clone in New York, turn on the camera' and I will look at someone and answer questions, then move to someone in L.A." He expects to send such masked spokespeople to conference and candidate debates as well. He'll instruct his surrogates via smartphone as to what to say and where to turn and whose hand to shake.
He has nothing he wants to say about any potential opponents, either within the L.P. or outside it. "I'm not running against anyone, please," he says. "I'm standing here talking about life in America as I experience it, and that's all" his campaign is about. "I have nothing positive or negative to say about Trump, Hillary, [or any other] what's his name nobody [who might be his opponent in the Libertarian race]. Who gives a shit? I'm 73 years old, I may have seen something at a level of subtlety maybe you have not seen."
He fervently hopes the party and its voters will not think less of him or punish him if he can't actually show up to campaign at any convention or event on U.S. soil while he's on the lam, to accept his surrogates and "not expect me to risk absolute and certain arrest by forcing me to show up at debates."
Does he think being a (so far self-created) fugitive might be a plus to a Libertarian audience? "Is it not?" he snaps back. "Aren't we supposed to be standing up and risking things, putting ourselves on the fucking line" for freedom? "Well I'm doing it. Please God give me credit for that."
His campaign web page winningly admits that "since our insane government keeps massive secrets from us and is masterful at disinformation, there is not a single National issue that we know the true state of….So do not ask me about immigration, foreign relations, education etc. I have no idea. Those claiming that they do are lying to themselves, or if not, they are purposely lying to you."
He expanded on that point, after complaining that a U.S. consulate official in the Bahamas he just visited refused to even give McAfee his full name. "The bigger problem is we don't have a clue what our government is doing," he says. "Government keeps all these secrets while it gets all this information from us. How the fuck do I solve a problem I don't know the truth about? We have to solve that problem first."
"Let's not even talk about the Middle East. Do you speak Farsi? Neither do I. Do you understand the nuts and bolts and nuances of their religion, culture, history, political alliances? No. Yet you want me to solve their problems? Fuck that. Don't even ask me that question. It's rude."
McAfee seems aware this sort of talk isn't election-winning, and he wants you to know he knows and that it doesn't matter. "Libertarians are not going to get elected this year, maybe forever, and if we pretend we are we are fools in the eyes of those whose support we are trying to get. Questions like 'what are you going to do your first day in office?'" asked of Libertarian candidates in public shouldn't be answered seriously, he insists. "It makes me vomit. Serious people are watching us here. Please, God, get real with yourself."
He's running not for fun but, as he told me last time as well, out of a sense of duty toward America and the future. "I didn't want to run. I don't. But I do what I have to do. Good God, I have children and grandchildren and I have to do something, do I not? This time if I can stay ahead of the long arm of U.S. injustice, I will be able to say the truth. Please, God, wake up! I will tell you about government as I see it. My God, what has happened? America is not here anymore. I need to bring it back."
While at one time he was reputed to have a fortune of over $100 million, at this point he merely says "certainly for the next month I'm not going to starve" and that he anticipates that some sort of defense fund might be set up for him; "I have enough firm believers I don't think people will let me starve."
Videos from his boat featuring McAfee discussing many of these matters can be found on his Twitter feed. In the latest from last night, he says he is reading comments from others about how they have "never seen anyone livecast their evasion of U.S. authorities before. Why not? I have nothing to hide. With one exception: Me, the person, this body, and hiding it from those who want to collect it."
Elsewhere at Reason: McAfee on his inevitable victory in 2016, on realizing it might not be inevitable, and a feature profile on his fight for the nomination against Austin Petersen and winner Gary Johnson.