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The death of computer security pioneer and worldwide fugitive John McAfee sparked a flood of emotions on Crypto Twitter.
The alleged death of John McAfee, a prominent tax evader, Bitcoin supporter, and antivirus software pioneer, has sparked an outpouring of condolences and conspiracy theories today.
After years of avoiding US taxes and authorities, a Spanish court ordered McAfee’s extradition only hours before his death, with the 75-year-old expected to face a life sentence in the United States should he have been extradited.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) employee and whistleblower, Edward Snowden, criticized the global reach of U.S. enforcement and warned that McAfee’s untimely end may not be the only one as “Julian Assange’s story could end much the same.” He tweeted:
“Europe should not extradite those accused of non-violent crimes to a court system so unfair — and a prison system so cruel — that native-born defendants would rather die than become subject to it.”
Cardano founder, Charles Hoskinson, praised McAfee’s contributions to computer science, describing him as “one of the most enigmatic and interesting people in the cryptocurrency space and the history of computing.” “He was also a deeply troubled person,” added Hoskinson, noting McAfee’s well-documented personal traumas and substance abuse issues.
“The reason for the suicide seems self-evident — McAfee was 75 years old, and the extradition ot the US was approved, he was looking at over 30 years in jail, if convicted, and likely would have been […] it seem that he decided to choose ending his life there in a Spanish prison rather than a U.S. prison.”
Anthony Pompliano, a Bitcoin influencer and podcaster, described McAfee as “kind, funny, and incredibly intelligent,” posting a photo of himself with the anti-virus pioneer and his wife Janice Dyson, holding heavy weapons from the house boat the couple had used to avoid police for years.
I once had the opportunity to spend the day with the legend @officialmcafee on his boat in the Bahamas.
He was kind, funny, and incredibly intelligent.
Will always remember that day. RIP to one of the world’s most unique individuals. pic.twitter.com/B5FnvDBRYK
— Pomp 🌪 (@APompliano) June 23, 2021
Kim Dotcom, an online entrepreneur who is battling extradition charges from New Zealand stemming from his file-sharing network, Megaupload, bemoaned McAfee’s drug addiction, stating:
“A pioneer in data security. I always thought he partied too hard, should have avoided the drugs and focus on using his brilliant mind for good. When he had a sober mind it was all about freedom.”
QAnon and conspiracy theories
Despite McAfee’s own legal representatives in Spain, informing Reuters that McAfee had hanged himself rather than face life in prison, the internet is predictably ablaze with conspiracy theories asserting McAfee had not died at his own hand.
McAfee’s official Instagram account tweeted a picture of the letter “Q,” fueling enthusiasm among QAnon conspiracy theorists immediately after his death was revealed. According to Business Insider, QAnon influencers on Telegram with “hundreds of thousands of followers” were circulating posts that questioned the suicide narrative.
McAfee’s own Tweets have been constantly replayed today, including one from December 2019 in which he said the government was threatening to kill him and that he should not accept any version of events in which he committed himself. However, the tweet was advertising his “WHACKD” crypto coin, which mentioned Jeffrey Epstein’s death and linked to a website where the token could be acquired.
Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: “We’re coming for you McAfee! We’re going to kill yourself”. I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd. Check my right arm.$WHACKD available only on https://t.co/HdSEYi9krq🙂 pic.twitter.com/rJ0Vi2Hpjj
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) November 30, 2019
Other conspiracy theorists focused on a June 2019 tweet in which he claimed to have a “31+ terabyte” trove of data including proof of government corruption that incriminated “a CIA agent” and “two Bahamian officials” that he would reveal if captured. McAfee, on the other hand, was arrested in October 2020, and no such evidence trove has been revealed.
— AnonymousNobody.eth #6024⬛️🟫 SquidGang🦑 (@An0nym0usNobody) June 23, 2021
It’s worth noting that McAfee was no stranger to making big and absurd statements, such as vowing to swallow his own phallus on national television if Bitcoin didn’t reach $1 million by 2021, having sexual intercourse with a whale, and synthesising a novel psychoactive chemical in Belize.
McAfee’s Tweets from behind bars have also taken on a more solemn tone in recent weeks. In May, he admitted to discussing suicide with a fellow inmate.
Today a man facing a difficult situation asked if I knew of painless ways to kill himself. Having little experience in such, I was of not much help.
The amazing thing is that the tone of the discussion was like discussing the weather.
Prison is a strange environment.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 27, 2021
He also spoke of being “an old man lost in a near infinite Twitter verse — like tears in rain” and admitting to “having a down day.”
McAfee’s Spanish lawyer, Javier Villalba, told Reuters he believed that McAfee simply could not tolerate being locked up:
“This is the result of a cruel system that had no reason to keep this man in jail for so long.”
If you need help in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. In Australia call Lifeline on 131114 or look up the service nearest to you.