The late John McAfee was a lot of things: a rumoured rapist, murderer, and speed-fiend who somehow escaped prosecution, but also a libertarian cryptocurrency shark facing a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint and, of course, the founder of the security company bearing his name. Now, the Daily Beast reports, he’s also secretly alive — in the minds of QAnon conspiracists, anyways.
McAfee died in a Spanish jail cell on June 23 awaiting extradition to the U.S. on tax charges, apparently of suicide. But McAfee had previously insisted that if he were to be found dead of suicide, his supporters should know that he was actually assassinated by nefarious parties unknown. He even got an arm tattoo reading $WHACKD, suggesting his demise would be the result of a hitman. It’s not a big jump from believing McAfee was being hunted by Agent 47 to thinking he somehow slipped the noose by faking his own death. So one could say the conspiracy theory that has 130,000+ people flooding Telegram rooms proclaiming the good news of McAfee’s survival, according to the Daily Beast, is his last gift to the public.
Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: "We're coming for you McAfee! We're going to kill yourself". I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn't. I was whackd. Check my right arm.$WHACKD available only on https://t.co/HdSEYi9krq🙂 pic.twitter.com/rJ0Vi2Hpjj
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) November 30, 2019
McAfee’s Instagram account was being run by other people while he was in prison, and shortly after he went to that big file quarantine in the sky, a “Q” image appeared on it. (QAnon, the future of the GOP, is a sprawling, loosely organised network of crackpots, anti-Semites, and fascists who believe Donald Trump is secretly fighting a secret Underworld-style war against a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. Numerous QAnon supporters have committed crimes or acts of violence including murder, and they provided key manpower during the deadly pro-Trump riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6.) The account was later deleted but has since been replaced by three accounts on messaging app Telegram the Daily Beast wrote have “racked up followers by pushing QAnon-like ramblings and providing a countdown clock for revelations that — shockingly — never materialised.”
It’s not as though this is somehow a surprising development. QAnon wackos are fond of theorizing that various historical deaths were actually faked, particularly the late John F. Kennedy Jr., who many of them believe is still living as a Trump supporter named Vincent Fusca. McAfee was a well-accomplished internet troll and no doubt hoped for rumours about his death to linger long after he had actually departed this mortal coil, hence the tat.
One account, titled “I Would Describe Myself As Quite Sane and Lucid, Which is Why I’m Still Alive. John McAfee,” launched on July 20 and already has over 125,000 followers. Two others are far smaller but apparently piggybacking off its shtick. According to the Daily Beast, evidence the account has posted for its veracity include personal documents belonging to McAfee such as a scan of his gun licence, all of which had previously leaked are easily available online, including from a group of documentary filmmakers trying to sell copies of them as a non-fungible token.
The Telegram channel has also posted links to a YouTube account full of drone footage of notorious pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, which conspiracy theorists had previously, and without evidence, posited was run by McAfee. Some of the channel’s followers have attempted to decode garbled segments of its other message, the Daily Beast wrote, asking each other whether they knew how to access the “dark web” for more information.
While former McAfee’s lawyer, Andrew Gordon, confirmed that McAfee was dead to the Daily Beast, the account had seen this coming and simply posted rants about how he was not to be trusted.
At least a few other major conspiracy accounts, perhaps sensing unwelcome competition for grifting revenue, have called out the fake McAfee accounts. Ron Watkins, the former 8chan administrator widely rumoured to have been behind the QAnon movement, posted to his own Telegram channel that “The John McAfee telegram account didn’t [sic] announce anything at the end of the countdown. None of the alleged 31 terabytes of deadman’s switch data has materialised. Now his account is posting Q-style drops and signing them as McAfee. Be careful.” For the record, Watkins has frantically distanced himself from QAnon and tried to rebrand as a ufologist.
After Trump failed to throw a coup d’etat either immediately following the November 2020 elections or before Joe Biden was inaugurated in January, the QAnon movement has been down and dispirited but far from out.
In June, the FBI warned members of Congress that remaining members of the movement are more extreme than ever and may tire of being “digital soldiers,” and instead devote their seemingly inexhaustible energy to violent attacks rather than “continually awaiting Q’s promised actions which have not occurred.” According to NBC News, QAnon adherents who watched members of the movement mostly fail to win elections in 2020 are now focusing on local races like school boards and city councils. A number of major QAnon accounts have tried to ditch the baggage associated with the label by insisting the QAnon movement referred to by the media does not exist, publicly disavowing any connection to the movement while changing nothing else about their rhetoric.