Shortcuts / 26 January 2023

Andrew Tate

You might have seen the name Andrew Tate in the news over the summer – and wondered who is this guy and what has he done to get locked up in a Romanian prison? So in this episode of Squiz Shortcuts, we take a look at who he is, why he has such a huge influence, particularly on boys and young men, and why we should care.

Andrew who?
Yeah, we hadn’t heard of him either until he had a Twitter blow-up with environmental activist Greta Thunberg just after Christmas.

What was that about?
So on 27 December, Tate baited Thunberg with a boast about the “enormous emissions” of his luxury car collection. But her reply was quite the burn – let’s just say she mocked his manliness…

Why would Thunberg bother responding to a nobody?
Well here’s the thing – even though that exchange was probably the first time anyone over 30yo had even heard of Tate – he has more than 4 million followers on Twitter and had billions of views on TikTok before his account was shut down.

So he’s a big deal?
Yeah, but before we get into that we should probably cover off his backstory.

Go on, then…
So Tate is 36yo – he’s a former kickboxing champion and after his parents divorced he was raised by his mum on a council estate north of London. His Dad was in the US Army and was also a chess master.

So nothing to see here so far…
Yep, but then when he was 21yo he appeared in a travel reality show and in 2016 he was a contestant on UK Big Brother. He was kicked off the show after a video emerged of him beating his ex-girlfriend with a belt. He said it was consensual and no charges were laid.

How did he go from B-grade celebrity to household name?
So he really started ramping up his presence on Facebook and Twitter – focusing on this idea of being a “real man” and he starts saying pretty misogynistic things.

Like what?
That women can’t drive, that they should stay at home and do what their man tells them. And when the whole #MeToo movement took off in the US, he said women need to “bear responsibility” for being raped. That saw him banned from Twitter.

But he didn’t disappear…
Nope – the ban actually boosted his profile and saw him embraced by other high-profile far-right figures including Donald Trump Jr. Tate also posed in a photo with British politician Nigel Farage back in 2019, and he appeared on the podcast of US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

And he just kept getting bigger from there?
Yeah, so he started shaping himself as a kind of guru for young men, selling a version of what we’d call toxic masculinity. His videos would offer how-to guides on “pulling women”, making fast money and living an Insta-worthy life where you don’t have to be accountable to anyone.

So his views became more extreme?
Yep – he started posting more inflammatory things after realising it was giving him a bigger profile.

What sort of stuff?
He talked about his sister being her husband’s property and even how he’d condone hitting and choking women and stopping them from going out. There’s plenty of seemingly benign stuff as well, like him posing with cars, boats and private jets – basically living the playboy life.

How does he fund all this?
Tate is estimated to be worth somewhere around US$250 million. Most of that was made after he set up a private online group called Hustler’s University. The joining fee is a hefty US$100 dollars a month and he has more than 120,000 people signed up – mostly boys and young men – so he’s getting really rich off of that.

How has he gotten away with sharing such problematic views on social media?
That’s a question many were asking considering a lot of his content violates the codes of conduct of the likes of TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, and he was finally thrown off those platforms in August last year.

What was the tipping point?
It’s likely it only happened in part because so many mainstream media organisations started doing investigations into him and asking tough questions of the social media companies on why they hadn’t done anything. But Tate was allowed back on Twitter last year after Elon Musk took over the platform.

Thus the tit-for-tat with Greta Thunberg…
You got it. It was just days after that exchange that Tate was arrested in Romania.

Doesn’t he live in the UK?
He did – but then he moved to Romania 5 years ago. He said at the time that was because “even though I’m not a rapist…. I like being able to do what I want”. That was when he was under investigation by UK police for allegations of abuse regarding his adult webcam business – though no charges were laid.

So he’s been living it up in Romania since then?
He was, until last year when police took him into custody. Authorities said they’ve been closely watching Tate, his brother Tristan and 2 Romanians for months. They’ve been accused of creating an organised crime group with the purpose of recruiting, housing and exploiting women by forcing them to create adult content that was sold online for profit.

Yep, and the police are alleging Tate recruited the victims by pretending to be seeking a relationship with them and then forcing them to appear in the videos under threat of violence.

Has he been officially charged?
Not yet… Just last week, a judge granted prosecutors a 2nd 30-day extension to keep the group behind bars. Police say they are still gathering evidence.

What’s Tate had to say?
He’s still managing to tweet from detention, telling his supporters “this is all about politics” and that he’s innocent.

Can’t we just ignore this guy?
The problem is that plenty of young people have been listening to him. His videos have had over 10 billion views on TikTok and an extraordinary amount of boys and young men look up to him.

What’s the youth’s take on Tate?
So most girls and young women know about him and aren’t a fan of his. But a number of teenage boys are far more open to what he has to say. They talk about the fact there is a lot to admire about him and that other people are just jealous of him.

That’s hard to get your head around…
It is, and it’s seen some UK schools put out guidance notes on how to talk about him in the classroom. Even UK PM Rishi Sunak got asked a question in Parliament about how schools should tackle pupils being “brainwashed” by Tate. He said that tech firms were on notice to ensure they enforced age limits to protect children from harmful online content.

But it’s not just a UK problem?
Nope, schools here are reporting the same issues. An Instagram post from a Kiwi teacher went viral where she said some of her male pupils aged between 13-15yo are making horrible comments about girls that echo some of the stuff Tate says.

Far out…
Yeah, it’s a big wake-up call. We mightn’t have heard about Tate until a month ago – but it’s probably on all of us now to talk to the young people in our lives to make sure we are having these conversations about the stuff they might see online.

Squiz recommends:

Squiz Kids – Newshounds

Young people interviewed about Andrew Tate (scroll down to watch)

Greta Thunberg’s viral reply to Andrew Tate

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