Stranger than Fiction: The Odd Tale of Antiviral Software Inventor John McAfee

From Millionaire to Madmen: The Story of John McAfee

Directed by J Aubrey (2020)

Film Review

This documentary recounts the bizarre story of John McAfee, multimillionaire inventor of the world’s first commercial anti-viral software. Free McAfee software (currently owned by Intel) is everywhere. In fact I can recall inadvertently downloading and having to remove it from my hard drive at least four times. McAfee himself has made an X-rated YouTube video explaining how to uninstall it:

He founded the software company McAfee Associates in 1987 and ran it until 1994, when he resigned. After writing some self-help books and starting a yoga institute, he moved to Belize to avoid a string of lawsuits.

While in Belize, he built a lab for an American microbiologist who was researching the antibiotic properties of a local plant.

Embarking on a heavy drug and alcohol spree, he became noticeably manic and paranoid. Complaining that the regular entourage of Belizean prostitutes he engaged  were plotting to kill him, he built a police station for his small village of Carmelita and hired a police force to staff it.

His paranoia only increased after the Belize Gang Suppression Unit raided His property based on an allegation a hit man he hired had kidnapped and beat up a local gang member. McAfee was also arrested on a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine and released due to lack of evidence.

In 2010, the microbiologist he was financing fled the country claiming McAfee had drugged and raped her.

When the Belize government charged him with having his next door neighbor killed In 2012, McAfee fled the country for Guatemala. Following his arrest by Interpol, he faked a heart attack and was flown to Florida.

Although McAfee never faced criminal prosecution for his neighbor’s death, the family sued him in US court, which ordered McAfee to pay them $25 million for wrongful death.

He left the US once again to avoid this and other civil judgements against him. In 2020 he campaigned from international waters to become the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate.

In October 2020, he was arrested in Spain for US tax evasion. According to the Guardian, he has been in prison for nine months awaiting an extradition hearing. See

The Real Reason Silicon Valley Moved Electronics Assembly to China?

Death by Design

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

Death By Design is a very concerning documentary about the extremely toxic chemicals used in the production of semiconductors and circuit boards needed for computers, cellphones ipods, etc.

It turns out IBM has been keeping a mortality register since the 1970s showing an extremely high rate of breast cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain cancer and melanoma in in electronics assembly workers. Unsurprisingly there are also high levels of carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals in the ground water of various Silicon Valley neighborhoods. Thanks to the tireless organizing and lobbying efforts of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, in 2001 the EPA declared a number of Silicon Valley companies Superfund Sites* in 2001 (IBM, Intel, National Semiconductor, Hewlett Packard among others).

This, in turn, would lead most Silicon Valley companies to outsource their electronics assembly to China, where environmental regulations are much weaker.

At the moment China also deals with most of the world’s toxic e-waste, a problem significantly compounded by deliberate planned obsolescence on the part of tech companies. Our Smartphones, computers, etc are deliberately designed to cease operating after about four years so we have to buy new ones. The most famous example is the Apple iphone, with the infamous battery that goes dead after 18 months and can’t be replaced.

Apple and their main Chinese contractor Foxconn are also the worst offenders in resisting Chinese environmentalists who are trying to reduce toxic discharges to Chinese rivers and streams.

The part of the film I found most interesting relates to a company called Ifixit, which specializes in teaching Smartphone and computer users how to fix their own devices instead of replacing them. They have even developed a special screwdriver to open Iphones so the batteries can be replaced.

I was also intrigued to learn about an Irish company that builds totally non-toxic and upgradable laptops out of wood (instead of plastic) that last 7-10 years.

*When the EPA declares a company a toxic Superfund Site, the company is required to develop and pay for removing the toxic chemicals.