Written by G.Ranseen
Writer and Author of a forthcoming book titled, The Chain”
A Cursory Examination of the late John McAfee’s Bizarre Last Words
On June 23rd, 2021 – three days after the Summer Solstice – approximately 30 miles North East of Barcelona, Spain and the beautifully picturesque Balearic Sea – in a region known as Catalonia, within the walls of the Centre Penitenciari Brians II – a 75 year old Tech Pioneer, known to the world and to the press by the name of John McAfee was reported to have hung himself in his prison cell just hours after a Spanish High Court ruled to have him extradited to the USA to face Tax Evasion charges.
The news appeared to be an abrupt and surprising end to a colorful life and personality that always seemed to be both at odds with – and also steps ahead of – the mainstream media – as well as those who opposed him. The news of the suicide is also strange considering how proactive, stable and full of life McAfee himself had been on Social Media during his approximately 8 months of being locked up, where he was apparently able to access a computer at the prison facilities for short periods of time on a daily basis which is a standard privilege at the prison for low risk prisoners.
The timing of the suicide in a strange way – for a split second – could make sense. If we consider that McAfee was truly fearing the solitude of Prison or, realized the cold reality Prison life for the remainder of his days and suspected that life in US Prisons while he faced an ultimate judgement from the US Court system might have been too much to endure at his age.
Yet, the shock of McAfee’s death blurs even further into confusion after one reviews his somewhat bizarre suicide note which his ex-wife, Janice McAfee – quite reasonably argues1 – was likely intended to be a Tweet which he may have wanted to type out when he was able to re-gain access to the prison’s computer facilities and internet the next day. While I believe this is indeed quite possible, I have my own thoughts and impressions which although might not be representative of the whole truth insofar as the information we presently have available to us – might hopefully open up a new perspective on the confluence of events which occurred on the date of McAfee’s death.
On a day like June 23rd, one might be inclined to believe that at the onset of Summer and its heat being in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth might be closest to the Sun. However, the opposite is true – the Earth is actually furthest from the Sun during the annual Summer Solstice.
In just the same way, within the heat of the moment and for a brief instant, while I read through the various news reports on John McAfee’s death – something in my mind or, in my heart led me to question whether the news reports themselves might not also be furthest from and in genuine opposition to – the actual Truth!
Until his death and even just a week or, so leading up to the day he lost his life, John McAfee had been an intriguing, entertaining, intelligent and worthy actor on the world stage. John McAfee could be what he wanted and when he wanted at the drop of a hat or, at the slightest challenge or, personal whim. The motivations or, wellspring of his vast repertoire of knowledge, locution, information and verbosity remains a mystery.
What is particularly striking to any observer of McAfee’s life and personality – from his eloquent and erudite speech, dark humor and imaginative wit – to his ability to move effortlessly between serious instructional dialogue to entertaining anecdotes from his own life or, from history, politics, science, philosophy, medicine and his own expertise – Computer Security and Information Technology – was his acuity of mind.
Anyone who had the pleasure to listen or, watch McAfee while he was with us was always left entertained, satisfied and perhaps even for most who crossed his path – cheered and spirited for having encountered him. McAfee’s sharp insights and cutting rhetoric tore through the façade of most people’s pretentious and even lazy senses of Character and Integrity.
Yet, what might strike one most about John McAfee – and what certainly struck me – was the inherent strength of his Mind and ability to remain functional, sharp and engaged into older age.
This to me was what in some principal way – made McAfee one unique septuagenarian – and yet from what I observed and gleaned from his alleged Suicide Note – this trademark or signature of McAfee’s was only half present and nearly absent from what had characteristically become the late Software Mogul’s communication style.
McAfee’s strength of mind and sharp acumen as both an observer, thinker and speaker was something most people who encountered his personality – whether in everyday life or, on Social Media – likely were attracted and mystified by. This same tone and spirit of consciousness can be found in the last 8 months of Tweets – through near the very end.
Right up through early June 2021, McAfee was tweeting or, retweeting some deep and engaging insights. Everything from Social Engineering hacks utilized by foreign agents to insert themselves into corporations around the world to a mysterious anomaly involving Boolean Algebra, a foundation for Computer Science.
It seems that near the end – McAfee was clinging to those wonders and those aspects of life that he found most curious and engaging – perhaps as a way to sustain his interest in life as well as perhaps to maintain some degree of sanity in the hell of prison.
A curious slump or, gap in McAfee’s twitter activity arrives near Father’s Day – which might not be a surprise – considering McAfee not only had a daughter and was a father himself but his own Father had committed suicide when McAfee was a teenager.
The fact that McAfee wrote what his ex-wife insists his suicide note was intended to be a tweet on a piece of paper might lend credence to the idea that McAfee was writing his tweets by hand and either sending them to his wife or, someone who had authority to access his Twitter account OR, as has been reported – McAfee was writing his tweets by hand and then transposing them to this Twitter account when he had access to the Prison’s computers and Internet.
Now, to the Suicide Note itself. In image can be found online2 and based on McAfee’s twitter history – the note could be a tweet in the making. However, there is an incoherence in the tweet which is worth noting. I am doing my best to transcribe it below:
John McAfee’s Alleged Suicide Note – with Strikethrough
“I am the present moment’s phantom parasite. I used it for my own will to attain my own ends. Instead of fully living it. I want to control my future which does not exist. By using the present with my past as the controller. Through knowledge which is mere ashes of memory. But the here and the now are beyond the control of any and all reality. “
John McAfee’s Alleged Suicide Note – without Strikethrough
“I am the present moment’s phantom parasite. I used it to attain my own ends. Instead of fully living it. I want to control my future which does not exist. Through knowledge which is mere ashes of memory.”
My first impressions of this note are that there isn’t the same command and grip that McAfee had over his subject matter or even the focal point of a communication the way he normally delivered through Social Media or, even through Speech.
The term Phantom Parasite is specifically interesting however – considering that McAfee was being chased and charged by the IRS who one could argue are a “Phantom Parasite” – in that Taxation if unconstitutional as both McAfee and even the late Irwin Schiff3 – who died in prison for refusing to pay taxes – insisted it is! If human beings are being bled dry by something that doesn’t exist – I suspect only a rare few might attempt to speak up about it and John McAfee was one of those rare few who had the know how as well as the freedom of mind, guts and spirit to do so.
The idea that McAfee was confused or, communicating strangely brought to my mind the possibility that McAfee experienced some kind of Dissociative Identity episode. There can be no doubt that prison life would slowly chip away at one’s mental faculties as well as add additional stress to what already may have been a truly difficult experience – particularly for an older individual.
When I looked up the rates and occurrences of Mental Illness and Dissociative Disorders among Prisoners – I found that such links have long been linked to Trauma4. It also worth noting that a study published within the past 5 years shows how prevalent mental illness is among prisoners and how these illnesses can develop and even accelerate with prison life itself5. There is also a study which focuses on mental illness among older prisoners6.
There are a few other Dissociative disorders which might be worth exploring in an attempt to understand how Prison life can take its toll on the mental health and well being of prisoners.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM or, per its latest (5th) edition – the DSM-5 – is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used, per the APA’s own language, as an “authoritative volume that defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research.”7
The manual as it has been compiled and created by the APA has been around since 1949 with the first edition formally being published in 1952. There are proponents of the Manual’s ever expansive conditions, mental illnesses and states of consciousness and how the expanding nomenclature and classifications of diverse mental states has allowed our modern Age of Science and Technology to propel our Medicine and our Healthcare capacities to unparalleled heights.
There are a few disorders outlined in the DSM-5 and other Manuals which are worth mentioning as they relate to Dissociative disorders and Prisoners.
According to the DSM 5 – “The disorder is a rare psychiatric abnormality characterized by reversible amnesia for one’s own personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality8.” In addition to this definition, according to an article published by WebMD, it is possible for someone suffering a prolonged or, even brief experience in a Fugue state of mind to completely lose their identity and not know who or, what they are9.
Another dissociative disorder which is common among prisoners is known as Ganser syndrome. According to British Journal of Psychiatry, “Ganser syndrome is a rare dissociative disorder characterized by nonsensical or wrong answers to questions and other dissociative symptoms such as fugue, amnesia or conversion disorder, often with visual pseudohallucinations and a decreased state of consciousness10.
Additionally, “ The syndrome has also been called nonsense syndrome, balderdash syndrome, syndrome of approximate answers, hysterical pseudodementia or prison psychosis11.”
Is it possible that either of these disorders were experienced by John McAfee and ultimately led him into a state of mind in which he did not know who he was? Is it possible that John McAfee actually disassociated and left us even before he was found deceased in his Prison cell? Did John McAfee disassociate from society and become someone else? Did John McAfee consciously take his own life?
Or, is it possible – as McAfee himself feared and forewarned and as many have theorized – he was actually murdered or, whacked for fear of what he might know or, reveal or, even what he might ultimately represent?
Perhaps only time will reveal this answer and settle the mystery and hopefully the world can have the answers we deserve. In the meantime, my condolences go to John McAfee’s family and friends.