Is John McAfee an Important Public Intellectual or a Crazy Person?

He's running for president. You should pay attention to his campaign.

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John McAfee is running for president. Well, yes, you retort, so is Deez Nuts. And, if you can believe it, Donald Trump. While every candidate has a unique story, McAfee’s could be the most compelling: software tycoon turned fugitive. The designer of the world’s first major anti-virus program says a lot of wild stuff, but could it be good for American society?

Much of McAfee’s presidential platform hinges upon — you guessed it — cyber security. He’s created the Cyber Party and his website has statements like these:

“Australia just announced, with its new government, the Creation of the Digital Transformation Office – a cabinet level Position. The goal of the office is to bring cyber awareness and and cyber security education into the Australian Government. This should shame us. A country with 1 tenth our population and nowhere near the global leadership position that the U.S. aspires to recognizes that they cannot survive without Cyber awareness within its leadership. We must look hard at this example and ask ourselves how we got to the tragic situation of cyber illiteracy that we now occupy. If this does not immediately change we will be relegated to the bottom ranks of important nations and we will be, in every respect, wiped out by more astute nations.”

No doubt, the U.S. government needs to get more serious about cyber terrorism. Many don’t take it as seriously as the guns ‘n’ bombs kind, but a shutdown of the web would cripple the economy, endanger transportation, and spark a run on Amazon Prime membership refunds. McAfee is right. And he has other solid ideas, like decriminalizing marijuana and reducing sentencing for other illicit substances. It ain’t ending the war on drugs, but it’s a step in the right direction.

While some of his policies are bold and thoughtful, the messenger is ill-suited for the job. It’s something people say about Bernie Sanders: “If only he were younger!” Well, with McAfee: “If only he were less crazy.” Here’s the first thing you see on his campaign site:

“I am called ‘not serious’, yet I know of no-one who has lived a more serious life. I have run a multi-billion dollar company, having to make decisions based on cash availability and the existence of real competitors while my government lived in a fantasy world and printed money when they had none to spend. I lived in a Third World Banana Republic, was tortured and had to watch my dog shot in front of my eyes by a soldier trained by the FBI at Quantico using an Ar-15 supplied by the US Government. I hid in the jungles of Central America for weeks while being chased by an army representing a government that I had refused to be extorted by. Please…tell me what is not serious about this.”

If you’re trying to become president, you might want to be more serious about your past and how you highlight it. McAfee was being chased by the Belizean government because he fled to Guatemala when he was sought for questioning in the murder of Gregory Faull. That may not be something you want to highlight on your campaign website.

Many call McAfee paranoid, others delirious. His campaign is not serious, as he claims. But the issues are. Is he an important public intellectual or a crazy person? Probably both: You shouldn’t cast your vote for McAfee, but you should pay attention to some of the things he’s saying. And so should the people who might occupy the White House come 2017.

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