McAfee 2020 presidential campaign website
People,  Politics

‘Don’t Vote McAfee’: A presidential ‘un-hopeful’ talks privacy and why the president is powerless

Presidential candidate and controversial crypto enthusiast John McAfee spoke to Modern Consensus about the importance of privacy, DEXs and, of course, the Kennedy assassinations

John McAfee is not as hard to find as you might think, after self-reportedly having been in hiding for the past seven months. Granted, he is in hiding from various governments for a variety of reasons (ranging from tax evasion to an alleged desire by the U.S. government to “shut me up,” in his words), and not from the media. In fact, according to his presidential campaign website, “contact media outlets and personalities” is in the 10 suggestions for McAfee supporters. 

Before the presidential campaign, McAfee had long been known in the crypto space for his contentious Twitter account, where he used to promote altcoins in between tweets about Bitcoin’s price (with infamous phallic bets) and alternate history (“I was stunned by Epstein’s suicide, though probably not as much as Epstein himself,” for example).

John McAfee - don't vote McAfee
Presidential un-hopeful John McAfee (Photo: Henderson County, Tenn., sheriff’s office)

Now, however, the altcoin promotions are off the table — but the conspiracy theory claims are definitely not  — as McAfee gears up for a 2020 U.S. presidential campaign that has the catchy slogan, “Don’t Vote McAfee.”

Modern Consensus’ first question for McAfee on his election campaign preparations as the Democratic and Republic national conventions are approaching (although he plans on trying for the Libertarian party nomination, which will take place in May), was answered quite simply before an outpouring of what seemed like an oft-repeated speech about the futility of believing in the post of president.

John McAfee: First of all, I’m John McAfee, there’s no chance in hell, people, I would ever be president. If anybody out there thinks I could, please move out of your mother’s basement because you’re smoking too much and you need to see the real world. 

But do you actually think people it matters who the president is? Holy shit. How did we reach this point where we’re watching this drama of meaninglessness. The president had zero power since 1960: Dwight Eisenhower told us on leaving office, the CIA and the military industrial complex will steal your freedoms if you let them. And we fucking let them.

To skim over McAfee’s then detailed explanation of the CIA’s alleged assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby (a quick snippet: “Kennedy said we’re shutting it [the CIA] down. One week later, the poor bastard had an accident”), McAfee got back on track about the current, real presidential election.

McAfee: Our system is a car with a broken steering wheel: it does not give a shit who is driving and neither should we. Let’s wake up and pull this goddamn curtain back. So no, I don’t wanna be president and I do not give a shit who is because they’ve got no power.

[…]

Those who lived through even one presidential election: was a single fucking hair on your head wafted by that powerful explosion of power change? No, nothing changes. 

When asked then what the point of his election campaign was if he couldn’t get elected and the presidential office as an empty symbol, he had a short but emotional answer.

McAfee: Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because my heart’s breaking, that you lazy children [seemingly directed right at me], you young people are lost in your fucking phones and not seeing the reality around you. It is clear to me. Next question. 

McAfee’s campaign website does include a section on the promotion of cryptocurrency knowledge, urging McAfee supporters to “set the narrative” on the topic. And McAfee isn’t even the lone crypto enthusiast — Andrew Yang, a hopeful for the Democratic nomination, was also running as a “crypto candidate” with a plan to create more clear federal guidelines that will help, not hinder, crypto and blockchain development.

When asked if he minded sharing the “crypto candidate” spotlight, McAfee was unmoved.

McAfee: I could care less. Why would I think anything about it? 

I already said it doesn’t matter who sits there. Andrew Yang. Hillary Clinton. Some derelicts from the streets of L.A. It doesn’t fucking matter. Why should I think about him at all? He’s a goddamn personality like me, meaningless in this entire issue. Now, if a president had power, if whoever sits in the office actually fucking mattered, I might give him some thought. 

Since McAfee’s views on his presidential campaign and crypto candidates were starting to lead in circles, Modern Consensus slightly changed the focus to see if McAfee believed the U.S. government could do anything positive with crypto at all.

As an example, U.S. federal prosecutors broke up a child pornography ring in the fall of 2019 with the help of blockchain by tracing Bitcoin payments on the darknet. But it seemed that McAfee also couldn’t care less about the use of blockchain in fighting crime.

McAfee: Listen, I give a flying fuck about enforcement and whether Bitcoin helps criminals,  because you can’t get rid of criminals. They have been a two percent constant in the world since Plato first added it up and said, “1 in 50.” It’s still two percent of the gross national product around the world. You can’t stop it, for fuck’s sake. 

For example, when the telephone was invented, the mob used the phone to organize nationwide criminal activities. Does that mean we shouldn’t have fucking phones? The automobile got faster engines — what were they used for? Getaway cars! 

Good god, we can’t stop crime, and it’s not our job as citizens. That’s why we have a police force. Whether they want to use Bitcoin or what, I could care less. Bitcoin is not private, Monero is. 

Please God, use Monero. If you’re a criminal, use Monero. Get out of the way, We’re not stalking you, we can’t stop you. Do your thing. But I am not changing products that I build, like my distributed exchange, to put into it things like KYC [know your customer] and AML [anti-money laundering]. If you want me to do that, you’ve got to pay me as a policeman. 

McAfee had launched his decentralized exchange in beta in the fall of last year, following a seemingly new focus in the crypto world of experimenting in less centralized exchanges, with Binance as a key player.

However, McAfee made it very clear that the Binance DEX and his DEX could not be more different.

McAfee: No, not the same thing at all. Mine? Every criminal is going to use it, every sane person who wants freedom is also going to use it. I don’t ask for a name, I ask for nothing, no IP address. You can come from America or Russia: we don’t care. 

It can’t ever be shut down. And if they can ever catch me — I pray they don’t — what are they going to take? I can’t stop it, it will always be there forever, inviolable by whatever corrupt power rises up and does not like it. 

You cannot have freedom without privacy.

To expand on the privacy issue, Modern Consensus asked McAfee if he thought there was any merit to the idea of a central bank or government-backed digital currency that had privacy built-in (for example, the ECB’s slightly Orwellian suggestion last December of “anonymity vouchers”).

McAfee: Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds? We just talked about something called privacy, and how important data is and a coin that is private. Why on fucking earth would you want it also to be public? What transaction would you like to be public? Buying toothpaste, chewing gum, paying rent, buying a prostitute, getting a new car?

[…]

Plus, please, you said central bank. We talk about corporations, governments. Nothing that they build is in our favor. You understand that the blockchain and cryptocurrency is the first world-changing technology that has not come from the bowels of a government program or from a large corporation in 106 years [McAfee explained later that this was the repeating rifle, invented by Oliver Winchester]. 

[Bitcoin] came from 11 programmers, we know the fucking names. We don’t know which one of them wrote the white paper, who gives a shit. They may have drawn straws. I only know that it’s not Craig Wright.

To dig more into his view that the government currently exists only to hinder, rather than support, the American people and their privacy, Modern Consensus asked if McAfee feared a government crackdown on the existing privacy coins out there.

McAfee: Yes, of course it’s coming, and it’s coming soon. They will make Monero illegal, Zcash, Safex, Apollo — they’re gonna make them all illegal. 

But so what? They made marijuana illegal 75 years ago. And you many of you, if you are honest with yourselves, smoke weed in spite of the fact that there is a massive penalty. Why do you do it? You do it in the privacy of your home. It’s your right to do with your body what you want. And this is your money which you have earned, and your right to do with it as you want without paying 20 percent to some fucking government. 

This is why we’re in hiding, because I can’t come out and say these things in public, on national stages and conferences. 

McAfee’s final words of advice as a 2020 presidential hopeful?

McAfee: Don’t want to pay taxes? Use Monero, use a distributed exchange, live a happy life.

[Author’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.]

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Molly Jane Zuckerman is a freelance journalist covering crypto and blockchain news. Disclosures: Zuckerman does not own enough enough bitcoin (BTC) to buy a Birkin bag (<$5,000) and not enough ether (ETH) to buy a quarter of a Birkin bag (<$1,000).

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