Yes, Andrew Tate is a loathsome human being. But my 14-year-old isn’t taken in by this ‘king of toxic masculinity’ | Zoe Williams | The Guardian

2022-09-10 02:13:14 By : Ms. zhenqi craft

YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook have all banned the former kickboxer. That hasn’t stopped teachers worrying about his influence on teenage boys

A ndrew Tate – or, to give him his full title, the king of toxic masculinity – is a total enigma to the digital latecomer. Originally a kickboxer from Luton, he arrived in the public eye by being expelled from Big Brother in 2016, after video footage emerged of him beating a woman with a belt. It was just a kink thing, they both said, totally consensual, but Tate then went very public with his view that women are scum. His online profile soared: he now has 12.7bn social media views, and more Google searches than Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian. He was banned from the core platforms – YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook – last week, and yet apparently this makes no odds, since his “soldiers” can still find his content if they just look hard enough, which they do. He is the poster boy of the manosphere, and, as much as you might wish to take the wasp approach – ignore him and eventually he’ll go away - this peacocking of unpleasantness is not without consequence. He is a key influencer of young teenage boys, and – apparently, according to worried teachers – they’re taking him quite literally.

“Talk to your sons,” people on Twitter say, so I casually asked my 14-year-old about Tate. These days I skirt quite carefully around the issue of culturally embedded misogyny, after I had such a tantrum about How I Met Your Mother, in which the female characters are bolted together like two halves of different cars, that he said he’d never watch TV with me again. So I didn’t say, “What do you make of Andrew Tate, loathed bringer of hatred?”. I just said, “What do you make of Andrew Tate?”, all innocent like.

“Andrew Tate,” he said, “is exactly where he wants to be.” It’s just a standard ratchet effect: Tate says disgusting things, right-minded people are disgusted, all of which creates a site of conflict that is magnetic to the eye; a following builds, and to maintain it, he need only say another disgusting thing. Is he a trillionaire, as he claims? Are all those fancy cars he poses with really his? Does he even smoke cigars? These are not questions the 14-year-old would trouble himself with, finding the entire spectacle so basic that to even reward it with one’s critical mind would be to replenish its energy. No, I’m not saying my teenage boy is better than all the other teenage boys. I think his view is probably pretty common, and those Tate-fans who swallow his nonsense whole are regarded by their peers as mugs, the kind of kids who’ll put a quid in a claw machine, thinking they might actually win something.

There are regular moral panics about aspects of social media and the wider digital age, and what they might be doing to young people. What if they get addicted to Minecraft? What if unrealistic Instagram content messes with their mental health? Whither ambition, attention span, connection with the natural world? What if everything that matters is shot to pieces by having a handheld device containing all the world’s knowledge, plus Stick Hero? No amount of research and consideration can persuade people that maybe the younger generation are not just sitting there like puddings, mindlessly consuming content.

But Generation Z are saying exactly the same thing about us, only much more quietly, because none of them have a newspaper column: they look at the sheer credulity of the digital non-native, whether it’s a boomer believing anti-vax posts on Facebook, or a Gen X-er rewarding an attention seeker with yet more attention, then wondering why that didn’t put the fire out, and thinking, “These people shouldn’t actually be allowed online unsupervised.” They don’t need to be stewarded into a more sceptical stance – to be born into an internet age is to be born sceptical. This doesn’t really solve the problem of Andrew Tate, but maybe it resituates it as a You(Tube)-problem, not a them-problem.

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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