Reality and fiction have become increasingly blurred in the global media. Newspapers, magazines, TV news and internet news sites rely more and more on the reporting of other agencies in the creation of their stories and fact checking is diminishing to a null state. Some Internet agencies, under the legal guise of "satire" manufacture the news in its entirety from fictional content.
Agencies like The Borrowitz Report, The National Report and The Daily Currant have refined their fake reporting to the point that well-established news agencies reprint their stories or reference segments of stories as the truth. The Washington Post picked up a story that Sarah Palin had joined Al-Jazeera and reprinted it and even America's paper of record – The New York Times – was forced to issue a correction due to reprinting a false report:
An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West's quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column.
Fiction, at least in the press, can be far more appealing to readers than the truth. Not that the truth is in any way lacking in interest, but the addition of the right amount and kind of fiction can elevate perceived reality to the level of legend.
I have personally been affected by this increasing trend a number of times. Perhaps the most notorious of the fact/fiction manipulators that have attached themselves to my stories is Jeff Wise.
Jeff passes himself off as a specialist in everything from air crashes to psychology. The amazing thing is that reputable publications print his stories without in any way checking his credentials – which are all based on other stories he has written on a specific subject.
In a story Jeff wrote for Psychology Today he postulates that I am a psychopath, but adds the caveat: it's not a definitive diagnosis. Jeff does not have a degree in psychology, counseling, psychiatry or any other discipline that gives him authority to diagnose a sore throat, let alone a psychopathic personality.
His psychology training came from a book that he himself wrote – Extreme Fear – and he bases his expertise on the contents of that book. I kid you not.
After becoming a "psychologist" Jeff established himself as a specialist in airplane crashes. He made a mini career from writing about the Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, Flight 370, which crashed in the South China Sea in the middle of the night. His credentials? He holds a pilot's license, along with myself and 600,000 other Americans. True specialists in airline flight crashes have said: "He is an out and out charlatan."
Jeff Wise has made a career out of writing unreliable and even quite mad articles about a tragedy that cost hundreds of lives.
Jeff's ultimate coup in merging fiction and reality came on 12 November, 2012 when he wrote a story for Gizmodo claiming that I was wanted for murder in Belize. This is totally false as anyone who wants to search the public records can easily ascertain. However, his story was picked up and referenced by multiple news outlets and, in the mind of the reading public, it became true.
In any case, the creation of fictional news is going to reach unprecedented heights in June of next year. That is when Showtime, using Jeff Wise as its chief consultant, will release a documentary on my life. They have invented a novel approach to fictional news. They went to Belize – one of the poorest countries in the world and in which the majority of the population is at the starvation level, and offered dozens of people large sums of money to say "bad things" about John McAfee. Nearly everyone who was approached contacted me immediately afterwards and informed me. My property manager while I was in Belize was contacted by the Showtime producer and offered money to tell negative stories about me. His reply was: "I don't know any bad stories about Mr McAfee". The Showtime response was "If you can find one, we will pay you a great deal". I can hardly wait until June to see the astonishing results.
I hold no grudge again Mr Wise, Gizmodo, Showtime or anyone else in the creation and propagation of these fictions. In fact, I should thank all involved for giving me firsthand experience in this earth-shaking shift toward a world where truth is becoming an insignificant part of the world press. It has given me insights that many do not have and has allowed me to write articles, such as this, in the hope that others will wake up to this new world and, hopefully, raise the alarm.
Who is John McAfee?
John McAfee is one of the most influential commentators on cyber-security anywhere in the world. His new venture – Future Tense Central – focuses on security and personal privacy-related products. In September, McAfee announced he will be running for US president in 2016.
McAfee provides regular insight on global hacking scandals and internet surveillance, and has become a hugely controversial figure following his time in Belize, where he claims to have exposed corruption at the highest level before fleeing the country amid accusations of murder (the Belize government is currently not pursuing any accusations against him).
In September, McAfee was nominated for technology and digital commentator of the year at the annual Comment Awards for his work for IBTimes UK. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 24 November.