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Ever since Gamergate, there’s been a rapidly growing audience of disaffected young men rejected by society, desperately seeking for answers from the latest shaven, muscle-bound podcast guru. More often than not, this guru gives them a convenient scapegoat for their problems, telling them that the issue isn’t their lack of looks or money or empathy or talent or charisma, but women and/or minority groups and/or the liberal media. The latest figure to fill that slot? Andrew Tate, a former kickboxer turned reality TV star/cam-studio magnate who is now going viral on TikTok.
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Tate is a former kickboxer and the son of a chess champion who, until fairly recently, was perhaps best known for getting kicked off the U.K. franchise Big Brother in 2016 after video leaked of him beating a woman on-camera with a belt. Tate has maintained the encounter was consensual, and a the woman in the video later posted a video where she also said it was consensual and the situation was overblown. Tate and his brother Tristan then pivoted to running an adult-cam-performer studio in Romania, and they have admitted to encouraging models to tell clients fictional tragic stories in order to get money from them.
Most recently, however, Tate is best known for being a popular podcast guest, Twitch streamer, and general internet personality who spouts wildly misogynistic garbage. In one clip on TikTok that has attracted hundreds of thousands of views, he claims, “females have no innate responsibility or honor. If your boy had a car and crashes it, [he’d say] ‘Oh bro, I fucked up, I’m sorry.’ Bitch crashes your car: ‘Well, it wasn’t even my fault, that guy came out of nowhere’….and if you get too tough to her, like she’s gonna fucking pay, she’s just gonna block you and fuck some other guy.”
Tate has also said on Twitter that women should “bear some responsibility” for being raped, posting in 2017, “‘If you go out. Meet a guy. Take his drinks all night. Go to his apartment drunk. Start to kiss him. Then he grabs your tits. Not harassment. If I left a million dollars outside my front door – when it got stolen people would say. ‘Why was it there? Irresponsible.’ Take some personal responsibility. This zero blame game is damaging to the female cause as a whole. Protect yourselves.” (Those tweets were removed from Twitter and he was suspended in 2017, but he has reportedly popped up on the platform numerous times since then.) He has also claimed that 18-to-19-year-olds are more attractive than 25-year-old women because they’ve “been through less dick.” (He apparently made an exception for Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of right-wing pseudo-intellectual Jordan Peterson, whom he allegedly briefly dated in 2018.)
Tate, a Trump supporter who spent the first few years of the administration palling around with far-right personalities like Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander, has also used his platform as a popular podcast and Twitch guest to espouse his views on racism — specifically, that it isn’t that big of a deal. In one clip that has gone viral on TikTok, he claims that white people “suffer from more racism today than any other race” (Tate himself is half-black, something he cites often to refute criticism of his views); in another, he acknowledges that while there is racism in America, because “on some level there is racism everywhere,” the issue is exacerbated by the fact that Americans “won’t shut up about racism.”
According to the Guardian, Tate has said he has faced abuse allegations from multiple women, including one that resulted in his house being raided and him being held in a cell for two days. Though he never faced charges, in one video, he implies that this is the reason why he eventually moved to Romania: “I’m not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want. I like being free,” he said. Despite moving to Eastern Europe, Tate continues to face legal trouble, with the Daily Beast reporting in April that Romanian police raided his and his brother’s home as part of a human trafficking investigation. As of April 27, Romanian authorities stated that no one had been charged in the case, but the investigation was ongoing. The Tates denied the allegations, with Andrew in particular appearing to allude to it in an Instagram photo with the caption, ““Officer…l think we can all agree that bitches love to lie.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, these sterling bona fides, Tate has built up a tremendous audience on social media: he has about 4.6 million followers on Instagram and more than 740,000 followers on YouTube. He is particularly popular on TikTok, where numerous fan accounts and other podcast accounts that have featured him have caused clips from his appearances to go massively viral, racking up millions of views. Part of this is by design: Tate also runs a website called Hustlers University, a community for men to earn income via various money-making schemes, including copywriting and investing in crypto. Part of the business model of Hustlers University is to encourage members to post clips of Tate to ensure they go viral, which has led many to compare it to a multi-level marketing scheme, a claim Tate has also denied.
Due to Tate’s growing influence, there have been calls for him to be deplatformed on Instagram and TikTok, with many arguing that legions of disaffected young men are vulnerable to his message of toxic masculinity. Indeed, after setting up a dummy account on TikTok and liking a few Tate videos, Rolling Stone found that the account’s For You page almost immediately started filling up with homophobic, racist, transphobic, and misogynistic content, indicating that the average Tate fan could easily be rapidly red-pilled online. Even if Tate is ultimately deplatformed on social media, however, it’s likely his influence will not significantly wane. Because if there’s anything that the past few years have taught us, it’s that there will always be an audience for a deeply mediocre man with a podcast mic.
This week on Rolling Stone‘s Don’t Let This Flop, a weekly podcast about internet news and culture, cohosts Ej Dickson and Brittany Spanos discuss Andrew Tate as well as Addison Rae’s family drama, whether Yung Gravy really loves MILFs as much as he claims, an urban legend about meth in dog poop, and Jennette McCurdy’s memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died.
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