*Content Warning: discussion of sexual assault below*
Andrew Tate is the latest pop phenom rendition of an age old grift that serves misogyny couched in self-help “red pills” for alienated young men, and while any reasonable person can detect his toxic rhetoric, the righteous objectors to just him being banned from Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are caught in a performative contradiction that exposes their complicity.
The pro-Trump former kickboxing champion turned influencer has been on the record saying that women should “bear some responsibility” for being raped and that he moved to Romania because of the Romanian courts’ reputation for being softer on rape charges relative to the rest of Eastern Europe. The latter statement has lead to an ongoing sex trafficking investigation against Tate by the Romanian Directorate for Organized Crime and Terrorism.
Tate’s social media presence saw a domino effect of bans across various platforms in the summer of 2022 as this information started to break into the mainstream. Someone might be wondering how such a person could be so wildly popular for so long without the whistles going off in terms of what they have said in the past; they might expect this kind of person to be a sly and cunning character.
What’s so strange about Tate is that this is not the case at all. Tate is hardly an expert rhetor or frankly intelligent, as was exposed when left-wing streamer Hasanabi confronted him on his claim that women were inferior drivers to men despite what statistics say (there’s a reason insurance rates are higher amongst young men) to which Tate claimed he was being a bummer on the stream. As the clip above shows, Hasan Piker explains that Tate’s appeal to anecdotal evidence in his claim about women drivers has an analogue to the flawed logic that flat earthers use to deny that the globe is round; Tate, shirtless, proceeds to smoke a cigar and tell Piker that he’s ruining the good vibes that the “hot chick” created on stream before him.
Given this, it’s fair to say Andrew Tate gets bristly at the idea of empirical evidence of what reality is beyond the purview of his inflated sense of self.
This is likely the appeal of his particular brand of misogyny for young fans: Tate is so unbothered by his lack of critical self-awareness and almost endearingly unscrupulous when it comes to the precepts that form his world view that he has jester’s privilege amongst older fans who may well still be crypto misogynists and appears like a guru who has it all figured out to young men between the ages of who 12-18 who think Bugatti and assault rifles are cool.
However, what prompts a more interesting conversation is the strange pushback on Tate’s various bans from social media coming from the likes of massive influencers such as Jake Paul who tweeted in defense of Tate saying “I don’t roll with Andrew Tate”… “But I roll with freedom of speech.” The main objection seems to be that, though we can all agree that Tate’s message is extremely toxic, social media choosing to enforce speech policies because they don’t agree with the message is a slippery slope.
This critique is not only short-sighted but carries an underlying message which is congenial to a lot of the red-pill philosophy that Tate himself espouses. For starters, social media is essentially the public square at this point. This is due to policy history which I tackled in a separate article here at The Brock Press on how the current landscape of telecommunication monopolies came to be in North America and subsequently the world in the case of social media entities. Somewhat adjacent to Tate’s right-wing appeal to the revival of violent masculinity — albeit draped in more intellectual language — is public intellectual Jordan Peterson who got into a debate on the issue of media censorship not dissimilar to the Tate controversy on the Kyle Kulinski show a month back, after Peterson was banned on Twitter for being transphobic against trans actor Elliot Page.
In this interview, Kulinski, the show’s host, states that because social media essentially acts as the public square, first amendment rights should be extended to those spaces. He then agrees that Peterson shouldn’t have been banned for his slander of Elliot Page. If large social media entities, such as Twitter, are effectively the global public square, they should be regulated as if they are a public utility, as Kulinski suggests. Any statutory extension of oversight would mean that democratically elected officials and judges — judges being elected by the people in the states and appointed by the government in Canada — could have the final say on slanderous or publicly harmful situations on those platforms such as Andrew Tate’s content or Peterson’s hate speech. Oversight that realistically shouldn’t be at the behest of oligarchical tech corporations.
At a philosophical level this makes sense because the defenders of freedom of speech would let Tate continue to thrive on mainstream social media platforms not because they agree with his views or behavior but on the principle that even harmful ideas should have a place to exist if there’s a market for it. This argument, however, misses the point where algorithmic softwares can often help propagate the most harmful ideas that are allowed to be platformed simply because they’re outrageous. This silos attention to those harmful ideas as more of them, from a critical or supportive angle, comes to the fore as a result of its algorithmically supported (and often instantiated) popularity.
Guys like Tate know how to play the system and constantly bait for attention, even if it’s from the “haters,” “woke mob,” or what have you who want to do a “cancel culture,” because this all plays into the narrative that these ideas are only being suppressed because they’re simply hard truths.
Regulating these platforms and allowing actual public say into how and what should be allowed in the online public sphere would undercut the current ecosystem of outrage, canceling and hyperbolic appeals to freedom. If the “might makes right” attitude that Tate propagates in relation to being a Man is reflected in those who think that the might of clicks and eyeballs on his content make it right for it to stay up, then public discourse is only going to help produce more resentful and dangerous grifters.