This phrase is attributed to Lee Atwater (Google is your friend) though there are many variations of it that occurred before him. This phrase, as simple as it is, sums up the latest chapter in John McAfee's life, and also in parallel, Belize. Many perceptions of the past were perceived to be reality and have since been dis-proven with facts, ie: "the world is flat".
Whenever I hear this phrase, it's usually in response to me saying something like "that's not true". Whole volumes have been dedicated to perception, reality and truth. While I understand all the nuances and varying thoughts and theories, I like facts. Quantifiable, verifiable, not opinion ......facts. Once you have all the available facts you can then form your own opinion. Knowing the difference between the two seems to be something lacking in today's society. I grew up in a different time, a time when reporters reported facts, and if they interjected opinion (because as humans we can't help ourselves), they stated it as an opinion, and not fact. Perception is a functional reality, but it is not reality.
Which brings us to John McAfee. We picked up the story when our hero had been named as a "person of interest" by the Belize police in connection with the murder of his neighbor, Greg Faull. This is indeed a fact. The man was murdered by a single gunshot to the head, and he was a neighbor of JM. Fact. Depending on where you first heard the news from (I read it on Huffington Post), you either heard that he was a person of interest, or he was wanted for murder. Jeff Wise of Gizmodo reported ~ interestingly before the official release ~ that JM was wanted for the murder of his neighbor, and that he was on the lam from police. They even got one of their graphic designers to mock up a wanted poster for the story. I read this too, and it was not true. Other news organizations, hungry for the scoop, cited this article in their stories. Later that day, many of them had either posted new stories, or replaced the original ones with revised ones which more accurately reported JM as a person of interest......but the damage was done. For everyone who read the initial story and then moved on to the next one, John McAfee will forever be guilty of murder.
Is he guilty? In my opinion absolutely not. The facts that are available support that. They also support reasonable doubt that he, or someone he knew may be guilty. Our troll had said that "means, motive and opportunity" are the three tests. He had already come to his conclusion, so it was easy to bend the facts to match his 'perception'. On the other hand, a critical thinker would look at that and realize it was all based on perception and go out to dig up more facts. The means and opportunity were available to too many people for these to be significant. One thing we do not know, and no one has asked (as far as I know) is......did Greg Faull have a gun? See how that one piece of information could change everything? Another question is: what happened to the laptop and cell phone? The initial reports mentioned them, but once the world was fixated on McAfee, these became trivial. Since it was reported that nothing else was missing ~allegedly~ and the home had not been ransacked, I would say this is a significant fact.
Belize is the 6th worst country in the world for murders. This is a statistical fact. When calculating murders per capita, a small country like Belize can end up looking pretty bad, so you can look deeper to form your own opinions. Greg Faull had told his family that Belize was one of the safest Central American countries, even though the US has a travel warning for Belize due to the high crime rate. Perception, meet Reality. If you think a place is safe, you will not take precautions you may otherwise take. JM was aware of the dangers, some say paranoid. Again, one man's precautions can be perceived as paranoid behavior by others.
I have said many times that the other expats are on an extended vacation, and Mr. McAfee was immersing himself in the culture. So there then existed two different Belizes' in parallel. This continues to this day with the Belize that it's citizens live in and the Belize that was created for the tourists. In 'tourist' Belize, the people are happy, the streets are clean and the water pure, there is no poverty and the streets are safe. By contrast, in the 'real' Belize crime is high. Here's a Belizean's view of the REAL situation. The police, GSU, and other armed organizations are abusing their authority, and not doing the job they were entrusted to do. Being in police custody usually means at the very least, you're safe. In Belize it can be a death sentence. Many of the 'in custody' deaths are never reported, and the abuses by authorities, while sometimes reported on locally, never make it to the World press. Until the John McAfee saga, Belize was just another tourist destination. A cruise ship port.....the tourist Belize. Some people have said that if JM had not been Greg Faulls neighbor, he would still be alive. I say that if John McAfee was not GF's neighbor, his murder would have been reported locally in Florida, maybe even a paragraph put out on the AP wire and used as filler, but not the media firestorm that it was. It would be another unsolved murder, to go with the many other unsolved murders in Belize. The people in power would continue with their abuse and corruption and the world would have barely blinked.
John McAfee kept the conversation and the media attention alive for several months. Was it all just a mind-fuck as he says, or was it a masterful way of insuring that he and his friends stayed alive, and at least for a moment, the world shone a flashlight on Belize as the roaches scurried for cover? Perception, meet Reality.......
What was your first perception of John McAfee? How did it change over time, as more details came out and the conversation advanced? What was your perception of Belize, before and after this? Has this event helped you view the media with a more critical eye, questioning what you read, and doing a little more digging to find facts? We invite you to share your thoughts.