Last week, the odd state of torpor that is the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was disrupted when a bully decided to go after a teenage girl, the teenage girl dropped what the kids call a sick burn on the bully, and soon after the bully’s retort, he was arrested for sex trafficking by the Romanian government.
2022 really was working hard at the end to cement its position as one of the big years in this weird era we are living in. It must have realized 2023 will have a slightly GOP-leaning House so it needed to step up its game at the last moment.
The bully was Andrew Tate. The teenage girl was Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish climate activist who you likely have heard of. Tate, who has millions of social media followers (for why that is, keep reading) decided to attack her on social media for her climate views.
It didn’t work out for him:
yes, please do enlighten me. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org https://t.co/V8geeVvEvg
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 28, 2022
Tate posted a lame video retort and soon after, he was arrested for sex trafficking by the Romanian government. While at first it was thought the video gave away his location and enabled the authorities to find him, this was later debunked.
Okay, if you are wondering just who this guy is, Tate is a retired British-American kickboxer who built on the fame he received for winning two championships to become an online personality and grifter of losers. His ventures include “Hustler’s University” which is a pyramid scheme where he claims to give financial advice (including cryptocurrency, of course) and relationship tips, which are often horrifyingly misogynistic. He also had a webcam sex site, using his “girlfriends” as models.
Tate became infamous for sharing awful views on women and gender politics via social media posts and videos. In fact, they are so bad I won’t give examples here, as they are that reprehensible. He has added to this some terrible thoughts on other subjects, such as declaring depression is fake and generally stupid views about COVID. Acting in this cartoonishly exaggerated level of asshole-ery has led him to be a darling of the American right, appearing on multiple far-right outlets like Infowars and hanging out with Donald Trump, Jr.
Andrew Tate is one of those figures who can only exist in our current era. The environment is just churning these guys out, what with social media, the rise of fascism and the fascism-curious, and this bizarre knee-jerk reaction among The Most Sensible Minds of the Discourse to give the benefit of the doubt to any bad behavior as long as it is done by anyone to the right of Joe Biden. Indeed, people were rushing to the defense of Tate over being burned by the mean Swedish girl and ended up looking kind of dumb once he was arrested for sex trafficking. This Tweet says it all:
Ye really should have been a cautionary tale about embracing anyone just because they trigger the people you hate and yet https://t.co/3vVcFAhp6d
— Zack Budryk (@BudrykZack) December 31, 2022
It is tempting to write this guy off as some fringe character and do the thing we do in this country where we declare something unimportant because we never heard of it. This has always been a silly approach, but with how siloed our media consumption has become, it is really not a good line of thought for these times.
Tate is not some character lurking on the fringes of the Dark Web. His videos, which feature violent imagery about women and how to “control” women, have received 11.6 billion views. These videos are framed as “how-to’s” for young men. The influencer culture can be toxic in multiple ways, but Tate is toxic among toxic.
For starters, we as a society go on and on about what young females can do to avoid sexual assault, but there is still not enough said about what young males can be taught about respect for women. Someone like Tate, who openly defends sexual assault and mocks victims, is most certainly not helping. You may not know who Tate was, but chances are pretty good if you are a parent of a teen boy, he has.
Tate has been banned multiple times by multiple platforms, and he was one of the more controversial Twitter account reinstatements by Elon Musk. Although oddly enough, in an example of how there is no honor among trolls, Musk has been trolling Tate over the last few days. But his vile message keeps getting out there, and is viewed by a lot of impressionable people.
This means that like so many other examples of Things That People Have Never Heard Of, it does not play nice and stay in its silo so people can just ignore it with an eye roll and a lecture about What’s Important. I am sure the majority of Americans never heard of the vile online platform 8chan, but that didn’t stop it from inspiring three mass shootings in 2019. I would hazard a guess that many of those victims never heard of 8chan either.
Prior to the Internet, extremists and monsters stewed in isolation. Then they had access to forums and email to spread their hate. Then came social media, and all bets were off. That created a world where these figures can pop up and use social media’s structure to build huge followings.
There are ways to combat this. One is the platforms need to get better at banning them. These are choices that private companies can make, and the First Amendment has nothing to do with it because Twitter, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc. are not government entities. The other is people, especially parents, paying attention to them and not counting on magical thinking that ignoring these bad actors will make them go away or shield you from their effects. And major media figures need to stop supporting them based solely on how they trigger liberals. Especially when they end up being arrested for human trafficking.
The last word goes to Fiona Apple: