How Andrew Tate infected the internet

When Andrew Tate was indicted in Romania in June, no one who had paid attention to the drama surrounding him was particularly surprised. Tate and his brother Tristan were arrested in December on charges of human trafficking, forming an organized crime ring and rape. AND Lisa Millerwho had spent six weeks watching Tate’s content and diving into his universe for a New York Magazine article, saw the indictment coming.

There is no good phrase to describe Andrew Tate. He’s not just a podcaster, or a YouTuber, or a former kickboxer, or a misogynist, or someone accused of truly heinous crimes. He is something else, a creature of the Internet, a chimera that is equal parts hate, self-empowerment and tremendous online experience.

On a recent episode of What Next: TBD, I spoke with Miller about how Tate became that creature and how his mentality has infected a generation of teenagers. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lizzie O’Leary: Tate’s story begins more or less with kickboxing in the 2010s. He lived in the UK and fought under the name King Cobra. But he was desperate to get rich and kickboxing wasn’t going to help him with that. So, he capitalized on the only asset he had: his friends. What did he do?

Lisa Miller: Tate said he had 75 women working for him webcamming in four different locations in the UK and charging $4 a minute. The women would tell their clients sob stories: My grandmother is dying or my dog ​​has to go to the vet or I can’t finish paying for college. Customers would give them money and Tate, who was something of an online pimp, would take some of it. Something about that business model struck a chord with him when he moved to Romania and started this thing called Hustlers University, which was kind of a pyramid marketing scheme. Attract young people and teenagers to join; they pay $50 a month. They come into this world where they can learn copywriting and other skills, but the main thing they learn to do is cut, shred and repost Andrew Tate’s content.

So, he basically has this whole army working for him.

They are all working for him. And then he gets really smart and starts doing podcasts and longer interviews so that his army of him has more content to destroy and repost. And that’s how he developed this viral moment; he had hundreds of thousands of men and boys consuming his content and almost always reposting it on TikTok. Suddenly, if you’re between the ages of 12 and 20 and you speak English, Andrew Tate was dominating your For You page on TikTok.

Who are the kids who suddenly found themselves inundated with Tate content?

They all are. It’s really tempting to think that Tate fans aren’t our kids, that they aren’t good kids from well-educated parents who have good values. But this is not 100% true. After my story was published, the number of emails I received from friends who have teenage boys said, I asked my son, Have you ever heard of Andrew Tate? And he was like, obviously. I watch it all the time. Yes, they are everyone’s boys. You could not contain this phenomenon.

Where were these kids seeing Tate? Because he was banned from Facebook, YouTube and TikTok last year.

The explosion initially occurred in March or April 2022, before it was banned. In June it was so big that it was uncontainable. The other thing that happened early last summer was that Tate was everywhere, and Tate’s naysayers and critics were everywhere too, and it just made Tate bigger. In August of last year, Andrew Tate was more Googled than Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump and the Queen of England combined. One of the interesting things about Tate is that he was so big and his parents didn’t know him.

Why doesn’t he show up on their social media?

If you’re over 30, you won’t see Tate. Only see Tate if you’re 12 to 24, unless you’re a fan of martial arts or chess or Bugatti, unless you’re specifically in the worlds he’s on. He had all these stans that were reposting his content about him. You can delete an account that he has Tate in the name, but if it has not Tate in name, it proliferates to the point where it’s impossible to actually purge it from the roots.

What about Tate’s message stuck in all these different kids?

I think it’s twofold. For many guys, TikTok has been the voice. At first they responded to his gaze, so exaggerated, so caricatured and hyperbolic. They thought it was funny; they thought it was a cartoon. He was saying all the things you shouldn’t say in liberal blue circles, and the teenagers loved him, so that’s the entry point. But underneath, if you look at Tate in extended form and not on TikTok, you see that what he is offering is a kind of self-help. Go to the gym, work out, take responsibility for yourself, step up and be a man. And I think that’s the core of the whole thing, that it’s okay to want to be a man in the traditional sense, which means, in Tates terms, make money, have cars, have diamond watches, smoke cigars, have girlfriends, and take steps to achieve those things. This is a message that’s not popular or endorsed, and I think kids, especially straight kids, were like, “Oh, thank God.” Thank god there’s someone telling me it’s okay to want to be hot and have a fast car and a pretty girlfriend.

Guys could take the exaggerated things and wink and push them away. But they also listened to video clips with titles like Why Men Can Cheat, But Women Can’t, and Women Must Cook, Clean, and Obey.

He said things like: women are property. Women’s private body parts belong to their men. They can’t drive. They are bad leaders. They are unreliable. The guys tried to play down the misogyny by saying it was a cartoon, it was a game, it was a joke and what was good about Tate was this message to come forward and be a man, work out, make money, be responsible for yourself, don’t complain, be disciplined, fighting is part of life. If I can compartmentalize all this misogyny and follow Tate, his steps to becoming a man, that will be fine.

What do you think the prosecution in Romania does to Tate’s popularity? It matters?

When my story was published in the winter of this year, Tate was already in prison and his popularity was already waning in its far-reaching reach. He was no longer on everyone’s For You pages. The kids in school who said Free Tate didn’t say it anymore. He just wasn’t around as much for the winter. But I think the hardcore stans have doubled. Tate has a presence on alternative social media platforms and those people are just a lot more hardcore. I think it’s possible that some of those people could be radicalized? Yes, I think it is. Hardcore stans are much closer to what we think of as incels or red pill people than the broader phenomenon. Those people are still there and still with Tate. And I think his charges and upcoming trial will only solidify their commitment to him.

For most of his teenage audience, do you think Tate will be a phase, something they’ll look back on in a few years and cringe about?

I think kids are flexible and resilient, and many of the kids I spoke to see their own hypocrisies. Even if they try to do this cerebral Misogyny thing it’s bad, but Andrew Tate is funny and good, I’m even able to say, I don’t want to be that kind of guy. And I’m able to talk about that too.

When you’re a teenager, you do stupid and dangerous things, but that doesn’t mean you become a horrible person, which means don’t let anyone off the hook, because I truly think there is a path to radicalization that is real and dangerous. But I also think it’s not universal, it’s not inevitable, it’s not irreversible.

Could Andrew Tate have existed without the Internet?

No, absolutely no. I mean, her genius was virality. That’s what made it such a phenomenon, the way it exploded almost overnight within this huge group of people, but not for anyone else. This is a purely Internet phenomenon. And he understood what he was doing, and he cultivated and promoted it in a very strategic way, both by curating his look and by inserting these extremely misogynistic and viral quotes in his interviews with him. It was all a lot self conscious.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy and society.

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