Andrew Tate: When Do Influencers Become Dangerous?

Nora Toscano, Editor-in-Chief

Alpha-male social media influencer Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan Tate were arrested by Romanian officials on the charges of rape and human trafficking on December 29th, 2022. According to Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, or DIICOT, the brothers are suspected of recruiting young girls through social media by pretending to be romantically interested in them and then transporting them to houses where they were forced to act in pornographic videos. The victims were supposedly threatened with violence if they did not comply and the videos were sold online for profits. DIICOT has identified six victims who were sexually exploited by Tate’s criminal group and said that five homes were raided on the 29th. On Friday, December 30th, Tate tweeted, “The Matrix sent their agents.” 

These specific charges are ironic considering that Tate once said that he chose to move to Romania from the UK because “rape laws are more lenient there.” In fact, Tate has been known to have questionable, if not outright offensive and dangerous, stances on rape and women’s rights, which he has shared to large audiences through social media sites like TikTok and Twitter. His videos have gained a lot of notoriety due to their misogynist nature and  that a large number of middle and high school boys started to somewhat idolize Tate, admiring his wealth and status as a successful entrepreneur and kickboxer. Many of his videos have gone viral on TikTok, where he implied that by disrespecting women, you, too, could live a life of opulence like him. This summer, he saw a huge spike in popularity and engagement; in July, his name was googled more often than Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump. As one Wantagh High School senior put it, “it was the summer of Tate.”

With takes such as hisTweet in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations in 2017 that “If you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bare [sic] some responsibility,” his influence may be putting people at actual risk. Though this Tweet got him banned from Twitter, his account was reinstated when Elon Musk took over in October 2022. In late August 2022, his accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok were also banned. In a statement to The Washington Post, TikTok stated that his account was banned due to breaking guidelines on “content that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanizes an individual or a group” and that they were working to remove content of his reposted by other TikTok users. 

However, this has proven to be a difficult task, as “students” of Tate’s online private academy called Hustler’s University have been instructed to create copycat TikTok accounts and post Tate’s content, whether that be clips of his podcast appearances, reposts of his taken down TikTok videos, or other videos boosting his platform. And with TikTok’s algorithm that shows users videos similar to any they spend a few seconds watching, his message has been spread to millions. Callum Hood, head of research at The Center for Countering Digital Hate, stated that “the dangerous thing is that it is very eye-catching content, and the TikTok algorithm in particular is so aggressive that you only need to pause for a few moments before it will begin to recommend similar content to you again and again.” Similarly, in an experiment done by The Guardian in which they created a blank TikTok account set up for a teenage boy, they “were quickly shown content of Tate” and “the next time the account was opened, the first four posts were of Tate, from four different accounts.” Much in line with this study, an anonymous Wantagh High School junior shared that while he never followed Tate on TikTok, his videos frequently came up on his “For You” page, so he ended up watching a lot of Tate’s content. 

 So how did someone so blatantly misogynist and ignorant gain admiration by so many young men? His stances include that women should stay at home, can’t drive, and are the property of men. He only dates women aged 18-19 because he can “make an imprint” on them. He’s said that he would choke and hit women, destroy their belongings, and that if a girlfriend accused him of cheating, “it’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up bitch.” Views like these are absurd, and it seems crazy to think that just by watching videos of him sharing them, that boys would start to actually believe Tate’s ideas. But that is the slippery slope of influencers like him. You’re watching him just because of fitness advice, you swear. And yeah, he says disgusting things about women, has publicly and loudly told men to treat them like objects as if this is the era of Mary Wollstonecraft and not the twenty-first century, but he’s just kidding! He’s only trying to be controversial for laughs, it’s not like anyone believes any of that, he even probably doesn’t. He’s an entrepreneur, showing us all how to be businessmen. A Wantagh High School senior shared that he started following Tate in July and that “some of the things he said are kind of right, like how to deal with stress,” because clearly there is no other outlet for information on stress management and mental health.

The argument by many fans is that his chauvinist rhetoric is excusable because he is providing the world with valuable insight about entrepreneurship and because these words aren’t really hurting anyone. They’re just words, right? It’s not like he’s done anything. But words are not nothing, and now he’s being charged with rape and sex trafficking. Teachers across the world have noted a rise in misogynistic language among male students, and have reported being increasingly concerned about Tate’s influence on young people. A teacher in England who overheard fifteen-year-old boys discussing Tate and asked them their opinion on him was told, completely seriously, “Well, men are better than women, so he’s right.” And how can we blame them? When young, impressionable people are constantly listening to and engaging with ideologies that promote complete bigotry, how can we expect them to not at least subconsciously start to believe in them, even if part of it seems like a joke to them? The thing is, words do have power. They give people power. And we are inherently fallible, prone to listen to authoritative people, searching for a community to make ourselves feel strong. Andrew Tate has given an entire generation of boys exactly that, and to think that his ideas will disappear with him is entirely ignorant. He is not the first man in power to tell the world that women are inferior and he is far from the last. This is not the first time people have listened. And so we end up here, because words are just words until they’re not.