Written by: Harry Torrance
Reading this, you’re probably thinking one of two things. Either: Really? Do we still have to keep giving this hateful, misogynist the spotlight over a month after he’s been ‘de-platformed’? Or, who is this Poundland Pitbull I keep seeing pop up across the internet? Which category you fall into will largely depend on whether your social media accounts believe you’re a young man. Portraying himself as a self-help guru for men, Andrew Tate has faced widespread criticism, for promoting abusive and controlling attitudes towards women to young men with misogynistic views such as, “I believe my sister is her husband’s property.” However, his fans believe his straight-talking style is a necessary antidote to modern cancel-culture. Like it or not, however, Tate has become one of the most talked-about figures on the planet. In July 2022, Tate had more google searches than both Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump – and according to the Guardian, by August his videos had 11.6 billion views on TikTok. His rise to fame is not only unlikely, but the method by which he has obtained it of controversy amplified by algorithm manipulation is unprecedented.
Emory Andrew Tate III was born in Chicago, and raised in Luton, England – but speaks inexplicably with a Florida accent mixed with an occasional Cornish twang. In his 20s, he was a world championship-winning professional kickboxer, before making a fleeting appearance on Big Brother in 2016, where he was kicked out after a video emerged of him repeatedly striking a female housemate with a belt. Both parties have denied this was assault. He then grew a small fanbase on the ‘manosphere’ of the internet through a series of controversial comments including: “Depression isn’t real,” and that women should “bear some responsibility,” for being raped. Not my personal hero, I must admit.
It wasn’t until this year, however, that he went from being a manosphere champion to having more google searches than Trump. This came after an army of his fans from his ‘Hustlers’ University’ (not a real university, and criticised for resembling a pyramid scheme), each given 48% commission for each person they enrol, were told by Tate to use ‘comments and controversy’ to promote him and the ‘university’. This tactic was highly successful, flooding the internet with divisive videos – manipulating social media algorithms and making him almost unmissable on many young males’ social media feeds.
Tate’s content can largely be put into three categories. First, generic hyper-masculine self-help advice: to work out, work hard don’t quit etc. Second, the downright weird. He has claimed that ‘real’ men don’t own cats, and drink sparkling water instead of tap water – at last, I can stop feeling emasculated if I just spend my overdraft on sparkling water.
However, it is the third category, his misogynistic content, which has garnered Tate the most attention. For example, in one such video, he instructs followers how to respond if a partner asks if they’ve been cheating: “It’s bang out the machete, boom, in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up b*tch!” Or another in which he explains ‘probably 40%’ of the reason he moved to Romania was because he believed it would be easier to evade rape charges. I mean, why else would one move abroad?
Mental health and domestic abuse charities have understandably raised concerns over the potential for his videos to radicalise young men and boys towards his extreme misogynistic views – members of Hustlers’ University are often as young as 13. Indeed, studies suggesting that a rise of hate speech on the internet correlates to a rise in violence appear evident in accounts relating to Tate’s impact, with one woman asking for advice on a forum claiming her boyfriend’s ‘attitudes and opinions’ had changed ‘dramatically’ since watching Tate’s videos – somehow I doubt he’s become a committed feminist.
In August came the highly demanded removal of him and his fan accounts from Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram – all citing his use of hate speech as the reason. However, many people fear this ‘de-platforming’ risks making him a martyr for freedom of speech. Others suggest that he and his fans may simply move to other social media platforms, such as Discord or Gabb. Moreover, the sheer volume of Tate’s fan accounts and their steadfast attempts to repost his content has meant that over a month on, his content remains largely available on the platforms pledging to remove him.
Despite this, his ‘de-platforming’ appears to have marked a downturn from the peak of his fame – with YouTube megastars Logan Paul and KSI recently withdrawing their offers to fight him, the former citing not wanting to re-platform him as to why. Moreover, while his online presence continues, his mainstream stage is disappearing – the 50,000 subscribers he has on Twitch is an undeniable downgrade from the 4.7 million followers he had on Instagram. What’s more, the inorganic nature in which Tate grew his online presence, through his financially incentivised fans’ reposts, would suggest his exposure may be disproportionate to the number of people who actually support him.
Overall, while Tate’s shelf-life of fame is most likely concluding, we must consider why, as well as how, Tate, a man whose views at first glance would appear only to appeal to the fringes, became such a widely discussed figure in popular culture. First, it may be worth considering the problem at its root – why there remains such a large portion of disaffected and discontented young men who feel Tate is a worthy hero. In addition his unprecedented ability to utilise social media algorithms such as to make himself not only available, but unavoidable, arguably marks a new era in the digital age – where anyone who can successfully manipulate these algorithms, and with flood platforms with outrageous views, can obtain literally billions of views. Finally, in the attention economy, controversy is currently a strong selling point. As filmmaker Adam Curtis put it: “Angry people click more.” While Tate’s damage appears to be largely done, he has carved a blueprint for others to influence millions of impressionable young people in similar ways.