“There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Last Tycoon but that was before anyone had met John McAfee the nearest the security industry has ever got to a household name.
Judging from preview sequences from tonight’s Dateline NBC profile The Fugitive Millionaire (8pm Eastern), 69 year-old McAfee is convinced he can dodge the rule with a company called Future Tense, the privacy and security startup founded two years ago.
So far it’s been small but interesting with McAfee making the odd appearance here and there to expound on the erosion of privacy in the US and beyond and the need for new applications to put control back into the hands of the everyday man and woman.
Techworld only got to see a few snippets of the Dateline interview but it’s clear that whatever the success of Future Tense, McAfee will always be seen through the lens of his bizarre and still not fully explained flight from his previous home in Belize in 2012 after a neighbour’s murder. That's what interviewers keep coming back to before they even mention his founding of anti-virus firm McAfee.
Without re-hashing the full sequence of events it’s fair to say that every interview he does from now until hell freezes over will eventually fix on the mystery surrounding what happened during those strange weeks when he became the biggest story in tech.
It was a story with ill-fitting ingredients, including a dead dog, a house that burned down, and a spying campaign against his enemies in Belize carried out using keyloggers and prostitues. Amidst tragi-comic details, it is still troublingly easy to forget that a man died.
The Dateline session follows the standard format.
“So here we are. And here I will stay. And if the the Belizean government is after me, well, here I am. You know? You know where I am. I'm sitting in Opelika right now, and they know my address in Tennessee. And in the meantime, I intend to do my work,” says McAfee to his interviewer.
Asked whether he likes to still be thought of as a ‘mogul’, he replies:
I'm not fond of the term. It implies a sense of self which I do not possess. I am certainly an entrepreneur, the definitive entrepreneur. I look at life as an entrepreneurial challenge meaning that the entrepreneur sees a problem, and simultaneously, the solution, and works toward that solution.”
And on the subject of his time in Belize and his exit from the country.
“Yes. I gave up the decision to be fearful after a very long and hard road. In Belize, the war that I had with the government over their illegal invasion of my property in the jungle went on for almost a year. It culminated in the mysterious murder of my neighbor for which they wanted to question me, since I was his neighbor, his next-door neighbor.”
McAfee said he wasn’t sure whether the Government of Belize was still “after him” or not. If he’s unofficially still on the run it doesn’t feel as if he is.
As confounding as ever, McAfee somehow manages to be good copy without saying anything that sounds like good copy.
Image: Dateline NBC