McAfee, Vice, and the limits of hipster journalism -

McAfee, Vice, and the limits of hipster journalism

And the Pulitzer goes to . . .



The above Vice magazine headline is the most accurate reporting they’ve produced since they’ve been on the John McAfee story. It may be the only accurate reporting they’ve done. And yet, it’s still dishonest—a deflection, an attempt to evade responsibility and accountability.

On Monday, Vice posted a story titled “WE ARE WITH JOHN MCAFEE RIGHT NOW, SUCKERS.” It was a middle-finger pointed not just at their own readers, but at any rival media source following, from a distance, the curious case of the fugitive anti-virus software king (since apprehended). As proof of their coup, Vice included a photo of editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro, posing gangsta tough next to a weirdly laid-back John McAfee. The message: the world is looking for this guy, but we’re actually hanging out with him, and we’re not telling you where. But they did, by accident. The photo included meta-data revealing their precise location, which a reader quickly pinpointed as “next to the pool at Nana Juana Hotel Marina and Yacht Club” in Guatemala. McAfee was soon arrested. Oops.

It was a pretty big boner to pull, but what came next was worse. Before his arrest, McAfee claimed that the geotag data was wrong, that it had been deliberately altered to throw authorities off his trail. Vice backed him up, even as they re-posted the pic with the metadata scrubbed.

McAfee has since admitted, on his own blog, that this was a lie.  He blamed the geodata leak on “an unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters” and called the lie about it a necessary “misdirection.” Then he apologized, which is more than what Vice has done.

Rather than take any responsibility, Vice responded with a hipster shrug and a sleazy tease. Though he indeed might not know what the fuck is going on, editor Rocco Castoro still assures readers that he’s having an “absolutely epic” experience.  He’s been “blown away” by it, and “in the coming weeks, once we wrap up our documentary and corresponding magazine piece, you will find out exactly what that means.”

Give the man a Pulitzer.

I can’t feign surprise at just how badly Vice has goofed up here, or at how odiously they’ve responded to their own incompetence.   I still think of them as a fun, mean, trashy Montreal newspaper, rife with typos and porn stars posing naked in street wear ads.   But that was a long time ago. Their foundation myth—their humble beginnings as a druggy gambit launched on a  Quebec welfare grant—lasted for but a moment. Soon Vice was awash in dot-com cash, and not long after that, they became a bloated youth marketing agency posing as a magazine.

These days, Vice wants more than anything to be taken seriously. And they are; they have a partnership with CNN and are launching a 24-hour news channel in 18 countries.

As a ballsy antidote to all that is fake and pompous in TV news, Vice’s foray into journalism can seem exciting. It’s fine that they don’t truck with any of the news business’s self-important window dressing. This is an unregulated trade, far from a profession, and Vice is free to do whatever they like and call it journalism. They can accidentally rat out their own subject, become part of the story they are covering, lie about what they did and what they know even as they pimp out a promise that they know much more.   It’s all good showbiz, and they have our attention. What they lack is credibility.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown




McAfee, Vice, and the limits of hipster journalism

  1. Bitches be jealous

  2. Bone heads probably cost McAfee his life. What a bunch of idiots.

  3. “Vice is free to do whatever they like and call it journalism.” Step back and compare this statement to the majority of the other media companies operating today. McAfee agreed to the photo and article, Vice didn’t sabotage him on purpose. He knew the risks, or should have, considering his background.

    In my opinion, Vice is tapping into a huge market that the dinosaurs have ignored for far to long (while complaining about the internet and other various evils destroying the industry.)

    Sensationalized and biased? Yes. But at least the admit it.

    • you should watch ‘Man Bites Dog’ to see where this kind of ‘journalism’ ends up.

      • And where does garbage sensationalized and grossly biased partisan news, which caters to the interests of their investors end up? Tool.

  4. And your cheap pot shots aren’t doing you any favours man.

  5. This comment was deleted.


      • He is right, Jesse brown is a joke of a journalist, combing over his email and twitter feed does not count as journalism, here is an idea loser, get out of your chair and go see the world. All this wanna be loser does is regurgitate news that someone else breaks, Jesse Brown is not doing any real journalism, hes just a leach sucking off other peoples hard work. Here is the deal, when he grows a pair and brings a camera to North Korea, or walks around Liberia’s worst areas he can start to garner some of my respect. But until he starts reporting news that he didnt read somewhere else on the internet, or find on his twitter feed. Then as far as I am concerned Jesse Brown is just a loser sucking his way to the top of his corporate falice too afraid to get dirty, too lazy to get out of his chair.

  6. “Hipster journalism”… dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. These guys went to Guatemala while you laid on your couch and wrote an article bashing their efforts over a metadata error. Give yourself the Pulitzer.

    • And Vice lied on his behalf after the fact. Decisions about journalistic ethics aren’t always easy, but “don’t lie to the public” is kind of a slam dunk, no?

      • In almost another circumstances certainly. But since they accidentally leaked the location of a real person they were trying to keep secret I don’t think they acted improperly.

    • Nice pic homie, you ride that c0ck every night or only when your frisky hahaha you look like your having alot of fun…. I mean your ugly, but you look happy.

  7. The kind of bone headed mistake you would expect from this type of ‘professional’.

    • I know hey, kind of surprising he got a job with Mcleans. I mean I thought you had to break news in the news business, you know leave your chair and go talk to people, I guess not.

  8. And this is EXACTLY why governments around the world are happy to work with corporations to spy on the people.

    Metadata… LOL.

    Just more privacy given up for no valid reason. What percentage of people, do you feel, can tell you exactly what metadata is included in the photos they take and post to the Web?

  9. I think “hipster” is the wrong word to use here. Despite what some older journalists might think, the word is not a stand in term for “everything young people do that I think is dumb”.

  10. Perhaps Vice dun goofed with McAfee, but it’s more a minor trip up than anything. What media hasn’t screwed up before?

    Their overall reputation won’t take a hit as long as they keep reporting on topics that the mainstream media is uncomfortable covering, which is what Vice does very well.

  11. There are definitely some issues with vice becoming a ‘legit’ news outlet.

    But if you look at their reporting, even that of founders Smith (e.g., his reporting during Libya and in North Korea) and Alvi (see his recent reporting from Gaza), it’s pretty damn impressive and risky and brave. Certainly compared to anything good old Jesse Brown’s ‘critical thoughts on technology and what it means’ amount to.

  12. I agree with the other posters, maybe if you grew a pair and took an interest in journalism that you had to get out of your office chair for you would have some credibility… Loser

  13. Seriously, when was the last time mcleans got off their a55 and wrote a credible unbiased article about something important to our daily lives. If it wasnt for for your whack and biased review of universities every year I doubt you would even have any readers. Grow a pair and try some real journalism or shut up. Atleast there is one media outlet out there, Vice, wiling to venture out of 5 star hotels and armoured patrols to cover real stories about real people. Your a clown Jesse Brown.

  14. Berating the competition with the belittling term ‘hipster’? When you sport a beard like the one you do? Get real.

  15. I’m going to have to belatedly pile on the consensus stating that Jesse Brown apparently doesn’t know what a hipster is.