McAfee/Weiss Libertarian Presidential Campaign Videos
Here collected together are the famous 4 campaign videos from my run with John McAfee for the 2016 Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination. We didn’t win, but these videos will live forever, and I’m so proud of them. I’ll also say a few words about the story behind each one.
I was stoned one night when I came up with the idea for this 1st video. So excited, I wrote it down immediately. The resulting video is nearly identical to those notes. I was super excited in general, suddenly I’m running with John McAfee as his Vice Presidential choice for the Libertarian Party nomination. John Fucking McAfee. I’ve been a fan of that maniac for a while. A brilliant and bold badass I’ve looked up to for inspiration, and amusement. I needed to quickly show what I’m bringing to the table. And that was this video.
I’m well known in the liberty scene for my photography of the movement. I’m trying to make these nerds look cool. And I’ve gotten pretty good, so I constantly receive offers to fly me around the country and around the world to shoot liberty related events. There are over 25,000 Facebook profile photos out there that are mine. I’ve blanketed the liberty scene with my photography. I’m not a professional photographer, and I don’t have a photography site, I’m an enthusiast, and I just post my photos to Facebook, with some highlights from my archive to Instagram.
This video was transitional. It highlighted the sensibilities I brought to the table with my photography, and allowed me to take them in a different direction with a campaign video. These are my photos, and nearly all of them are from liberty related events. I didn’t want the video to be a slide show, I wanted the photos to fly by aggressively, but the vibe had to be beautiful, and fun. NOT GOOFBALL. Whenever libertarians aren’t in a serious mood, they’re usually goofball. It’s weak, annoying, and it shows no taste, repelling too many who might be interested in getting involved. There’s an abundance of nerd goofball aesthetic that dominates libertarian communication, I’m not going to contribute to it.
I got some criticism for this video from people asking where are the policy positions. I specifically didn’t put up an engineering spec sheet that only political advocates could understand. I was communicating with people who are not us. And I wanted this to feel unlike any political ad anyone has ever seen. This was meant as an extremely introductory video. Can you be into this? Is this Libertarian thing something worth looking into? I wanted to show people enjoying their life. But I did hammer home one policy position, at the end, with 3 words, our slogan: Let Life Live.
I used the song Teen Angst by M83, I knew it was the perfect song for this before I played it to confirm. Just selecting the photos from my archive for the 1st video took me about 2 weeks. My talented friend Janek Ambrose (from Assembly Line Entertainment) edited the structure together, and then I went into Adobe Premiere and slotted in my photos to his edit. It was the first time I ever interacted with a video editing app. As I started to kinda figure out the basic moves around the app, the door was opened for me to create my first campaign video on my own: Vote Different
When I came up with the idea for our 2nd campaign video, Vote Different, I was so in love with the idea, that I was telling people on the campaign team that this will be the greatest campaign video any human has ever seen in history. But I didn’t know how to use the video editing software. I just learned that you press “C” for Cut Tool and press “V” for Select Tool. That was ALL I KNEW. Until after I finished the video, I didn’t know that the left and right keyboard arrow keys moved down the timeline, I was clicking with my mouse those damn left and right buttons on the screen repeatedly. If only I knew that, it would have saved sooooooo much time.
I love Apple’s Think Different campaign, and the words to Here’s To The Crazy Ones were like gospel to me. The world would be a better place if more people lived by these words. Our Vote Different campaign video was like my cover version tribute to Steve Jobs. I felt like having John McAfee read those words was powerful in 3 ways. It’s a homage from one famous Tech CEO to another, re-establishing McAfee in that realm. These words are a perfect sales pitch for John McAfee as a presidential candidate. And John McAfee reading these words is a powerful sales pitch for the liberty movement.
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.
I wanted our 2nd video to bring a lot more attention to John McAfee, but without directly making an ad about him. This was an ad glorifying going against the grain. Which is what we’re asking voters to do. Instead of the ones who go against the grain being seen as powerless runts to be disregarded, I wanted to represent them as the leaders who inspire powerful change. Be a hero. Change the world. Vote Different.
This ad took off and went viral. The enthusiasm was extreme. The video was featured in a Forbes article, and number of Apple fan sites.
I got some heat from libertarians for the space shuttle footage at the end, which I explained in a Facebook post here.
I wanted the video to be gorgeous and inspiring. The song I chose is the opening track from Bvdub’s album Tanto (Bvdub is my new favorite artist.)
My heart was into the Vote Different video, but I decided to completely change it up again for our 3rd video: War Is Hell
Our third video War Is Hell was a collaboration with Janek Ambrose from Assembly Line Entertainment. I wanted this video to hit a lot harder. The last video was glorious and beautiful, I wanted this one to be brutal and intense. It needed to be WAY OUTSIDE the bounds of acceptable political messaging.
I picked a heavy industrial track, Salvia by Health, and I created a template with the scrolling text and title cards at the end, Janek filled in the rest with footage. He had done some impressive war documentaries (which is why Janek caught my attention in the first place), so war footage is his specialty. We used a lot of footage from Janek’s Unwarranted Influence documentary, mixed with some modern war footage. Before he got started I asked him if I can use the parachutes in reverse for the ending. Otherwise I told him to go to town with the footage, don’t hold back, except it can’t be grotesque and disturbing; people need to be able to share the video. It’s easy to get people excited with war footage, so we decided to make sure it was disorienting, and not a place you want to be. War Is Hell.
I knew this is a very controversial topic, I tried to be pretty fair. Regardless of whether national defense is a legitimate purpose of government, it’s still a government program, riddled with waste, abuse, and corruption, like any government agency. Except there are lives and limbs at stake. Can we look into what’s going on here? Must we treat the Defense Department as sacred? In the business world I encounter conflicts all the time. The best approach to dealing with them is to not focus on who’s right or who’s wrong (it’s never that black and white), instead focus on our respective contributions to the problem. Are we contributing to the hostility we’re receiving abroad? And then I asked the main question of the video: How much should we spend on killing to make us feel safe? Because I think that’s an incredibly important question to ask. No matter what nation you live in. I wasn’t expecting that question to get screenshot and become a Facebook cover photo for a bunch of people in the anti-war scene.
I felt like we broke new ground in presidential political messaging with this video. McAfee is a badass, and an ad like this suits him. But I felt like it was possible to stretch the boundaries even further. How far can I go? I explored that with our 4th and final campaign video: Exit Politics
My heart was really into Vote Different while I was making my first video ever, I was operating at the edge of my abilities. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever created. Now I wanted to push my limits even further with Exit Politics. This video was about leaving boundaries. So I broke as many rules as I could, not because I was trying to break rules, but because I didn’t care about them, the message wasn’t going to be restrained. This video is not going to fuck around. The message would be ruined if the video played it safe in any way. I was determined to make something bold, something fresh and unlike anything anyone has ever seen in presidential political messaging. I wanted it to have impact, and if the video didn’t create controversy… I will have failed.
When making Vote Different I told McAfee and the campaign team how awesome the video was going to be; but I was reserved when starting on the Exit Politics video, because I was not so sure. I told my campaign team that this will be the most “Out There”, kind of Avant Garde, but it should be a wild ride. I really had no idea if the response was going to be receptive, I just wanted to make the most balls to the wall video I was capable of. I told McAfee I’m going hard with this one, and he was super supportive. I only assured him that he knows I’m obsessive to the point that I won’t release something unless it’s amazing. He gave me an enthusiastic green light, and wanted to see how far I could go. Seriously, I love him for that. Can anyone imagine me having the flexibility to do something like this with Gary Johnson??
Exit Politics was a partial collaboration with Janek Ambrose from Assembly Line Entertainment. He edited the 2 minute flashing sequence with political figures and chaos. You might notice similarities in the editing style of that sequence and the War Is Hell video. We were trying to show the political world as a poorly constructed facade barely hiding the ugly truth, and how the media and our educational establishment promotes it all. A challenging concept to pull off visually, Janek impressed me here. I love his snarky portrayal of Hillary and Trump; and the way he focused in on Paul Krugman explaining our capacity to “Collect Taxes and Service Debt”. I told Janek to not hold back, go as far as you can, let’s create something no one has seen before.
Some people criticized our 1st video for being too long at 90 seconds. I was told it needed to be 30 seconds or 60 seconds max. So I made the 2nd video 3 minutes, and it blew up big. Exit Politics finished at 5 1/2 minutes. I was crafting an experience and it’s going to be as long as it needs to be. The first video also got a lot of smart asses commenting that there needed to be an epilepsy warning, when it really wasn’t an issue for anyone. So this time I might as well achieve what I’m accused of. The flashing red and blue colors were used to create an unsettling intensity, we were creating a sort of dreamy nightmare you’re waking up into.
I chose Pursuit by Gesaffelstein for the song, because it’s badass, and I like how it can both command attention but also stay out of the way, while remain driving. The editing of each video follows the song, and I liked how the last part of this song had a dance vibe after a dark nazi like buildup; that was going to be my contrast moment. It was fun to pay homage to Serenity and Simpsons, and I felt like the clips I edited in were perfect. The text sequence after the Simpsons clip was critical. Libertarians use large blocks of text to communicate, because libertarians are mostly intellectuals, but failing when communicating to the vast non-intellectual masses. People need to be engaged. I wanted to show how to craft an experience with text. That you can get someone’s heart pounding, even create goosebumps, with text.
The final segment of the video was compiled entirely from segments of promotional videos for the Voice & Exit Conference and Festival. The creators of Voice & Exit were a little startled by this video, but I assured them this video is a tribute by a very enthusiastic fan, not connected with Voice & Exit officially. I highly recommend their upcoming Austin event in November. Check out my photos from Voice & Exit last year.
It’s the future oriented Voice & Exit material at the end of the video that allowed me to complete the message, and allow this to actually be a positive video, even though it went to dark places. I wanted the video to go dark, to create a strong contrast with the last segment, to highlight a much better way.
It’s not the political process that moves humanity forward, but technology and our vision for a better life that moves us forward. We’re all bound into a system that’s not working for us. It time to explore other paths.
We got some press with Exit Politics. And some love on Adland. I loved seeing headlines like “John McAfee Releases Bizarre Campaign Ad“, there never would have been a headline “John McAfee Releases Conventional Campaign Ad” (apparently The Hill since changed the headline, but you can still see it in the URL). Exit Politics went the most viral. People flipped out. The comments wherever this was shared are so fun to read. They were so excited about it, so many people were sharing it enthusiastically. It could have totally flopped. I broke all conventional wisdom. No one would have advised me to follow those thematic paths. There has never been a Presidential Political Ad like this.
I had an idea for a 5th video that I loved. It picks up from Exit Politics, but again goes in a totally different direction. I think this would have been the best one, and probably would have gone the most viral. It was more solution oriented, hopeful, with an intense but beautiful and inspiring feel. It would have been perfect to start off the general election with, I’m kinda sad I never made it. I actually had 22 video concepts I jotted down notes for. Most we’re just a broad concept paired with a song, some I fleshed out a little. Maybe someday I’ll develop more videos for the liberty scene, unaffiliated with a specific political campaign.
The only way I know how to make the libertarian message exciting is to have the liberty to make something I’m excited about.
The whole point of these videos was to show how to communicate outside the boundaries of generic political messaging. Political messaging has become so stale and stifling, I wanted to craft engaging experiences instead of recite from the liberty engineer manual. And I wanted each video to be a distinctly different experience from each other, dropping new templates because I wanted to show libertarians some different ways to disregard the rules, to communicate with more power. These videos weren’t meant to come from a different place, I wanted them to come from a different galaxy. To totally re-imagine political messaging, and to show different ways to totally rebrand libertarian packaging.
I wasn’t making ads directly about us, our campaign, or even the Libertarian Party. I was making ads for the cause and the liberty movement. I wasn’t interested in talking about how great we are. I was interested in showing how well we can communicate the ideas, to those who are not us. This campaign was about having a platform to show a different way, it wasn’t about whipping up votes. We could have done SO MUCH MORE if we won the nomination, but I never had any delusions of the White House, I have no political ambitions, and I don’t give a shit about my political future. So I can be honest, and focus on moving away from the norm in politics. No focus groups. No concern for conventional wisdom. Either we’re fans of it, or we’re not doing it. The only way I know how to make the libertarian message exciting is to have the liberty to make something I’m excited about.
I plan to write more on the entirety of the campaign at another time. Being a VP candidate with John McAfee was a wild experience, politics is more shocking than I could have imagined, it’s a crazy story that needs to be told.
For Facebook sharing, Facebook links to the 4 videos: