[CONTENT WARNING: sexual assault and abuse are mentioned briefly in this essay as testaments to John McAfee’s awfulness]
At various moments, John McAfee’s journey from Cosby sweater-wearing tech pioneer to Belizean warlord-wannabe feels either like an absurdly complete microcosm of the worst aspects of American culture and its effects on the rest of the world — as well as itself — or simply an absurdly fascinating story to watch unfold.
But whatever it is, it’s absurd. And it’s some AMAZING shit to watch.
Full Disclosure: I am using the word shit a lot partly because I want to make a joke in reference to the steamy hot piece of goss this doc drops about McAfee’s penchant for eating shit through a hole in a hammock. But I am also, on a much more serious note, using that particular word because McAfee, in the end, is really just a huge piece of shit.
The film is mostly about his life as an American expat in Belize where he started fucking around apparently out of good ol’ boredom. Colonel Kurtz from Heart of Darkness is referenced a few times, and Heart of Darkness is even mentioned explicitly by McAfee, himself, as he pilots his river boat in what looks like a home video or might even be some sort of marketing video for his river ferry business — I’m not going to look it up.
This allusion is apt given that McAfee’s worldview, just like the legendary Colonel’s worldview and his fellow imperialists in Africa, is obscured by a fog of paranoia. Gringo cleverly connects McAfee’s source of wealth — his early recognition of both the looming threat of computer viruses and the future economic opportunities that would arise from that threat — to his next life in Belize in which that wealth and paranoia appear to have consumed him.
At this point I feel like I should mention that I have recently watched two other things that both, to some degree, influenced my viewing of the McAfee movie and this reaction to it.
The first is a Netflix original from the ReMastered series about Bob Marley and his relationship with politics and political violence in 1970s Jamaica. The CIA meddled to an unknown degree in those politics and in that violence during that time and probably beyond. The end of the documentary features a shot of Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga [who the filmmakers more than imply conspired with the CIA in the 70s] with Ronald Reagan in the 80s, and we all know what Grandpa Ron got up to in Central America in the 80s.
I don’t know the individual history of Belize, and Gringo doesn’t get into a lot of the history of the country beyond the area that McAfee fucked with. But I can assume, due to the fact that we [U.S.] fucked with almost all the countries surrounding it that, if we [U.S.] didn’t fuck with Belize directly, we have affected it, at the very least, indirectly.
And the fact that some piece of shit like John McAfee moved to Belize and used it as his playground to fuck around with people is very sad (I will add here that the ways he tries to hide from Belizean authorities and then is eventually found are hilarious and provide at least [very] temporary karmic consolation).
The second thing I watched recently was Full Metal Jacket, which is much more than just a thing but I couldn’t think of a word that neatly described both a one-hour docuseries episode and one of the best films of all time. Anyway, Full Metal Jacket is relevant for mostly the same reasons — just a different part of the world — and also FMJ really nails the hit on the head regarding that whole bleak historical cycle of fear where the United States — silly U.S. when will we ever learn? — creates its own monsters both abroad and domestically, and I see that in the story of John McAfee somewhat, a man rewarded by America for his pathological paranoia, bought out for millions and allowed to waste away on the beaches of the white man’s paradise.
But the white man’s paradise is always the home of people of color. Throw on top of that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, etc., and there you have it.
That is the bizarre but compelling story told in Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee. Whatever John McAfee was or is now in the eyes of the world and the American public, he is an awful human being.
I joked about it earlier, but the circumstances under which the fecal-based sexual act happened — repeatedly and with many different women — were disgusting and financially manipulative of young women who, prior to living on McAfee’s luxurious compound (yes, compound; this dude was really on some Jim Jones-level shit down there), were in all kinds of tragic straits.
McAfee took advantage of his business partner Alison Adonizio (The degree to which he took advantage of her is unknown; McAfee poisoned Adonizio, and she remembers virtually nothing of what happened after but awoke naked and nauseated) and terrorized her when she tried to leave Belize.
His involvement in at least two murders in Belize is largely unknown but what is certain is that he used violence to intimidate other residents and exacerbate existing violence in the area where he lived (I know this sounds crazy — this is the antivirus guy! — but just watch this shit; it’s AMAZING).
Parts of his life story are known and others are left to speculation, but what is certain about McAfee is that he is a product of the American economic system and the American way of life.
He was validated by old Uncle Sam with a big rubber-stamped check and he used that to fuck around with people who really didn’t need that kind of fuckery in their lives. And now he’s back in town and if the boys are gonna fight you better let them because he’s in politics now, he’s on TV, he’s probably gonna write books that suck even worse than this, and a whole yacht-load of the population seems to eat up pieces of shit just like McAfee.
McAfee, the man behind the eponymous software that burrowed itself into the background of the computing experience and has remained there to this day, is once again a verified expert, a Silicon Valley-branded badass-shaman-hippie money-tree, applying his peculiar experience with paranoia to today’s cybersecurity threats, among other things.
So, enjoy the wildly ludicrous but ultimately sad story of John McAfee for what it is but just remember that his is not a singular story. It is part of the American story, and it is certainly not a good look.
John McAfee protected the world from what might have been a full-blown cyber disaster and might do that again before he shrivels up like a raisin and finally dies. But he sure as hell cannot, and will not, protect the world from himself and other manipulative and dangerous pieces of shit just like him.
In America: if you’re not living in the shade of McAfee’s money tree, you’re living in another’s just like it. And much like those poor women whose shit McAfee ate, who traded one sexually abusive step-father for essentially another but with money and protection [white skin], we move from compound to compound, job to job, shitting in someone’s mouth who doesn’t give a shit about us.
John McAfee’s re-entry into American culture is a bad sign for the future of this country because it shows that even after 2016 [yes, here comes Donny!], people just like McAfee are going to continue to find redemption in the courts of public opinion that appear to matter significantly in American politics.
Why do people like John McAfee get a pass? Why do people like Donald Trump get to say, “You just grab them by the pussy,” and get elected President? Are we gonna keep shitting in these turd’s mouths or are we gonna start shitting in our own mouths for once, America?
In any event, as this really well-done documentary —
[that does its best to maintain objectivity and definitely does not include the opinions and the connections to geopolitical history that I have put forth here]
— has allowed me to articulate, we really need to get our shit together and not let people like John McAfee back into our boob tube bosoms so easily.