OPINION: John McAfee deserved better journalistic representation


Courtesy photo of imdb.com

In its newest adrenaline-pumping biographical documentary, Netflix’s “Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee” gives viewers insight on the bizarre life of the antivirus founder John McAfee.

The documentary tails the rogue tech billionaire as he evades American, Spanish, Belizean and Nicaraguan authorities and, allegedly, some of the largest and most deadly cartels in the world.

McAfee first emerged in the science and tech world as a programmer for the Apollo program in NASA. With nothing more than a bachelor’s in mathematics, McAfee then founded McAfee Associates and McAfee antivirus. Shortly after selling his stake in his company and losing millions of dollars due to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, McAfee moved to Belize. It was then that his already turbulent lifestyle and choices, relating to drug use and exuberant spending, began to take their toll. After becoming a person of interest in the death of his neighbor, McAfee fled Belize and became one of the world’s most erratic fugitives.

The documentary follows the stories of the individuals who knew McAfee best during his time on the run, including his girlfriend, his wife, his political team (McAfee sought a presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party in 2016) and two Vice journalists.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of McAfee’s story is that his documentary had so much potential but was ruined by poor journalism.

The initial two Vice journalists, Rocco Castoro and Robert King, were just two of the very small handful of people who were given the opportunity to see who the real John McAfee was and what he would do when confronted with allegations of murder, tax evasion and more.

Not only were some of Castoro’s most in depth interviews cut from the documentary, but Castoro and King’s colleagues at VICE accidentally exposed McAfee’s location through a posted photos geolocation. This cost McAfee his freedom, as he was eventually jailed due to the outlet’s slip-up.

It was truly a miracle that McAfee chose to reinvite King to document his time on the run rather than avoid all journalists and media. Even then, King had to step away from filming and McAfee, leaving his last, boldest moments undocumented.

As a reporter, it pained me to see these two journalists miss golden opportunities again and again. While Castoro and King did the very best with what they could, there were so many uncaptured moments, missed opportunities and journalistic stumbles in the documentary that, if captured, could have depicted the story of the century.

Regardless, the documentary gives incredible insight on what it means to be a technology guru, how the wealthy spend their money (even while on the run) and how governments track and arrest fugitives.

This story has been updated from a previous version.