On December 29, manosphere blogger Andrew Tate was detained by Romanian authorities on sex trafficking and rape charges, shortly after attracting attention to himself by starting a stupid feud with his teenage nemesis, climate activist Greta Thunberg. (She won.)
The days since Tate’s detainment have gone about as off the rails as you’d expect from the much-publicized arrest of the self-proclaimed “king of toxic masculinity.” Reactions from his staunch, terminally online, misogynist followers have ranged from denial and disinformation to spinning Tate as some sort of prophet. Then we have varying pundits claiming to not support Tate, all while sympathizing with him and pushing the argument that his rise is a result of the left’s failure to speak to young men online, rather than rampant, unchecked misogyny. This has prompted a sudden push for something akin to a leftist version of Andrew Tate, ostensibly to pull young men and boys into progressive spaces.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand that twelve year old white boys on twitch are not being pulled into fascism because of some Machiavellian desire to preserve and expand their privileges,” Vaush, a popular leftist streamer wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “it’s because the right talks to them and the left doesn’t.” Probably not entirely surprisingly but Vaush has a well-documented history of online misogyny, including appearing to joke about sexually harassing women.
That, of course, is just one piece of the discourse surrounding Tate post-arrest. But let’s start with the disinformation: No, sadly, authorities say they didn’t actually catch Tate via his Wednesday video message to Thunberg and its inclusion of a Romania-specific fast food pizza box. Ramona Bolla, a spokesperson for Romanian anti-organized crime agency DIICOT, told the Associated Press that the pizza-box story was “funny, but no.” Tragic! And as of Tuesday afternoon, there are no updates on Tate’s status, other than that he very much hasn’t been released, and the Taliban is reportedly displeased with his detainment.
Yet, social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok have been awash with viral posts baselessly claiming he’s already been freed. Other posts include a viral clip of Tate saying, “First you get canceled, then they make up a reason to put you in jail. If that fails, they kill you,” as supposedly conclusive evidence that the TikToker was set up and that the human trafficking and sexual assault charges against him are a fabrication and conspiracy. Sure, Jan.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told the Observer over the weekend that these rampant conspiracy theories “put at risk the integrity of an investigation” into Tate, as well as “the safety of those involved.”
If Tate “predicted” his demise, I imagine that might stem from him being aware that his own actions would eventually catch up to him. Romanian prosecutors say Tate is suspected of being part of a criminal group that lures women via false promises, then sexually exploits them, subjecting them to “physical violence and mental coercion through intimidation, constant surveillance, control and invoking alleged debts,” and forcing them to make pornographic videos.
In his varying TikToks and social media posts, as well as his documented record of violence against women, Tate has pretty proudly admitted to mistreating women as part of his highly profitable brand. Unsurprisingly, his supporters who are delusional enough to buy into Tate’s brand are also delusional enough to believe in his innocence—despite all the evidence against him, mostly provided by himself.
And beyond the disinformation, we’ve been collectively dropped into an insufferable conversation on the importance of hearing Tate out and reproducing his message to appeal to young men and boys in progressive spaces. These arguments have come from online pundits and popular leftist streamers who claim they don’t support Tate, while simultaneously validating his aggressively misogynistic strategy for effectively speaking to young, male insecurity.
Some claim that “the left gives brain-dead advice to young men,” and Tate’s appeal shows that “our advice has to be more than ‘don’t be a misogynist’ and ‘don’t be right wing.’” (I would argue, actually, that “don’t be a misogynist” and “don’t be right-wing” is fabulous advice, really.) Another unfortunate take: “How many vulnerable young men who are screaming out for help stumble upon people like Andrew Tate because he’s there for them whilst the left does nothing and offers no healthy alternative?” one Twitter user asked. “Of course some of the ideologies they pick up here are deplorable but that’s exactly why?”
One father cited former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart as someone who “used to do a good job of catching young men in their late teens,” but opined that today that “there is no one from the Left talking to 12-year-old boys. My sons all know who Andrew Tate is. But there is simply no equivalent on the Left.”
Others have similarly called for a “leftist” Andrew Tate, which, sorry, wtf does that even mean? Why should we strive for a leftist equivalent to a figure that deals with violent sexism?
Instead of recruiting and platforming a leftist Tate to “speak” to boys and young men by centering their feelings, the better solution seems to be taking a page from teachers, educators, and community leaders who are actively having conversations with young men—about Tate, about patriarchy, privilege, and violence. Teenage boys inevitably face mental health struggles and other challenges—but so do teenage girls, who experience all kinds of gendered trauma, and incidentally don’t become violent manosphere bloggers and possible human traffickers.