Misogynistic influencer Andrew Tate, who once said moved from the UK to Romania because “rape laws are more lenient there”, was arrested by Romanian officials on 29 December on charges of rape and human trafficking.
The country’s Directorate of Organized Crime and Terrorism Investigations, or DIICOT, said Tate and his brother Tristan are suspected of recruiting victims for an online porn crime scam. In a translated news release, officials said that the Tates recruited victims into believing they were interested in genuine relationships, then transported them to live in homes where they were under constant surveillance and forced to star in porn videos under threat of violence. The videos would later be sold online.
Tate has already proudly admitted to a version of this: the self-proclaimed “king of toxic masculinity” he told the Daily Mirror that he and his brother once ran a “total scam” business in which 75 women were paid to talk to men for $4 a minute, and where the Tates would pocket most of the money. This kind of behavior is central to Tate’s personal brand, that of the “outspoken” con man who films himself next to exotic sports cars and scantily clad models, wearing bathrobes and smoking cigars, implying that by following his advice, you too could live such a lifestyle.
Though Tate has been pursuing fame for years, his videos started gaining popularity last year, when clips of his angry diatribes and shady business advice regularly went viral on TikTok. Much of the discourse surrounding it is about panic over the well-being of boys and young people; in that time, middle and high school teachers reported noticing a sharp increase in sexual harassment and sexist hate speech in their classrooms by their male students. In response, all major social media platforms banned his accounts, though under the ownership of Elon Musk, Twitter reinstated his account in November. (It had been removed since 2017, when Tate tweeted later of Harvey Weinstein’s allegations, “If you put yourself in the position of being raped, you have to get naked [sic] some responsibility.”)
The brazenness of his cruelty and expensive but shabby aesthetic have made Tate the face of several unfortunate stereotypes in contemporary internet culture: the anti-feminist exploiting the Me Too backlash, the angry dude with a podcast mic, and the guy who pay for scam businesses adjacent to the pyramid scheme. She also makes him extremely easy to make fun of, which is what happened when, on Dec. 27, she tweeted to climate activist Greta Thunberg in an attempt to brag about how terrible her sports cars are for the climate. environment. “Please provide your email address so I can send a complete listing of my car collection and their respective massive emissions,” to which Thunberg replied, “yes, please enlighten me. email me at [email protected]” (It is now the fourth most liked tweet of all time.)
That this exchange occurred just two days before his arrest is pure coincidence, though conspiracies have abounded since: Tate responded to Thunberg with a video of himself next to a pizza box, and people guessed that since the location of the pizzeria was visible, it was a clue as to its whereabouts. The Romanian authorities have denied that this was the case and have been investigating his properties since April 2022, though Thunberg jokingly referenced the rumors in a tweet that read, “this is what happens when you don’t recycle pizza boxes.”
In a video of his arrest, Tate can be heard saying, “The Matrix attacked me.” As those familiar with the “manosphere” or QAnon will know, the science fiction film “red pill” concept has become synonymous with a number of right-wing neoreactionary beliefs: that feminism has gone too far, that “wokeism” is a serious moral threat to personal liberty, and that democracy and mainstream democratic institutions are inherently suspect (this is ironic, considering the intentions of the filmmakers).
DIICOT has so far identified six victims who are said to have been sexually exploited by Tate’s group; he did not specify which suspect he was accused of rape. Tate, along with his brother, is be detained in prison for 30 days and has not yet been released, despite false reports on TikTok.
The arrest has once again brought Andrew Tate’s name into the public discourse, and with it the question of how to deal with the boys and young people who have accepted his rhetoric. He tweeted the popular left streamer Vaush, “I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand that twelve-year-old white kids on Twitch aren’t being drawn into fascism because of a Machiavellian desire to preserve and expand their privilege, it’s because the right talks to them and the left doesn’t .” It’s unclear, however, what a “leftist Andrew Tate for teenage boys” would look like (anyone willing to embrace casual sexism? There are already a lot of them!), or whether mainstream or leftist culture really ignores teenage boys, who continue to be one of the key demographics for movies, music, TV, and video games.
Instead, experts recommend that concerned parents or supervisors talk to children about what they know about Tate and what they think about him. “It’s good for parents to remind kids that it might be fun for them, but it might actually have a negative impact on people because it’s threatening, it’s scary, it’s upsetting,” a clinical psychologist and cybersecurity trainer he told ABC Radio Australia. “What you can teach that kid is how to build your confidence and security without necessarily embodying these really toxic traits, because there’s a difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity.”
There will always be creepy, charismatic reactionaries ready to exploit algorithms that reward anger and prey on young, young kids who are still trying to figure out how the world works and their place in it. Tate is not some kind of singular genius, and we should refrain from treating it as such. The important thing is that when people come across content like yours — however attention-grabbing and controversial — they can see through the bullshit.
Andrew Tate wears sunglasses on a podcast.YouTube