If you’re a TikTok user, no doubt you’ve come across the content of Andrew Tate in the last month.
Footage of the 35-year-old is all over the platform’s For You page, racking up over 11.6 billion views — in July, more people searched his name on Google than those of Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump.
Tate, a former kickboxer and Big Brother contestant, styles himself as a self-help guru, offering his mostly male fans a recipe for making money and “pulling” women. In recent weeks, though, he’s been deemed by some as “the scariest man on the internet”.
In the clips being shared on TikTok, Tate espouses that women “belong in the home”, “can’t drive”, and are a “man’s property” — if they’ve been raped, they should “bear some responsibility”.
His views are as misogynistic as they are unoriginal. And yet, as National Director of White Ribbon Australia, Allan Ball, told news.com.au, Tate’s meteoric rise from near-obscurity to fame “wasn’t an accident”.
Instead, it’s a co-ordinated effort, one involving thousands of members of the British-American’s private online academy, Hustler’s University who have been told, according to evidence obtained by The Observerto flood social media with Tate’s most contentious videos in order to achieve maximum views and engagement.
In less than three months, Tate’s “blatant attempt to manipulate the algorithm” (as one expert put it) has earned him a huge following online and potentially made him millions of pounds, with upwards of 127,000 members – many of them men and boys, some as young as 13, from the US and UK – paying the £39 ($70) a month to be a part of his “War Room”.
What is Hustler’s University?
Started in 2021, Tate describes Hustler’s University as “a community where you will have access to stock analysis, options plays, crypto analysis, DeFi, E-Commerce, Copywriting, Freelancing, Flipping, Real Estate, Financial Planning, Affiliate Marketing, Business Management and more”.
On the site’s landing page, short videos of exotic cars, yachts full of women, and Tate smoking a cigar with his friends playing underneath bold text that promises the program will “turn around your financial life” and help you to “become a financially free person.”
Members are told they can earn up to £10,000 ($17,240) a month by following his supposed steps to success (though some who’ve signed up for Tate’s “courses” say the information provided in them could be found just as easily online for free ).
They can also earn money by recruiting others, receiving a 48 per cent commission for each person they refer. And to have the best chance of getting people to sign up, they’re advised to stoke controversy to improve their chances of going viral.
“Students” are told, in one Hustler’s University guide, that attracting “comments and controversy” is the key to success.
“What you ideally want is a mix of 60-70 per cent fans and 40-30 per cent haters,” Tate advises.
“You want arguments, you want war.”
Tate’s demands that members “be a man” and “prove themselves” in order to stay a part of the network, Lucy Cocoran pointed out in a piece this week for Marie Claire“reads like a cult”.
“Tate’s dangerous tights are easily accessible to anyone who feels even remotely aligned with his ethos,” she added.
“Even if his subscribers are merely there to make money, they’ll inevitably be indoctrinated with his sexist beliefs, too.”
Mr Ball agreed, telling news.com.au that “in reality”, what Tate is doing is “choosing predatory behaviors by profiteering from the promotion of ‘rape culture’ and violence against women to a worldwide audience of mainly young men, many in their early teens”.
The repackaged videos making the rounds on TikTok, in which Tate declares that he respects the former US President Trump because he’s “grabbin’ b**ches by the p**sy” or that he only dates women aged to 18 to 19 because he can “make an imprint” on them, do not come from Tate himself.
Despite the fact that TikTok’s terms explicitly say they ban accounts that “impersonate” someone else, by using their name or picture in a “misleading manner”, the hundreds of accounts sharing the clips do exactly that.
“TikTok and all social media platforms need to stop disseminating user content that is full of hatred, contempt and misogyny,” Mr Ball said.
“Is this the sort of man our men and boys – our fathers, husbands, brothers, cousins and nephews – aspire to be? Is this the short of culture our social media platforms want to support?
“I suspect not, but whether they realise it or not, as long as TikTok remains silent on this issue, it is in fact providing consent.”
He added that “the use of gaming, extreme bravado and music [in the videos] overlays his deplorable actions with a filter of normalcy.”
“Impressionable young minds are drawn in by money, power and unwavering confidence, to become part of a tribe,” he said.
“We need to reframe Tate’s commentary and ask the hard questions to better understand what young men believe are the and drawbacks of having these benefits.
“We need to be sharing messages of equality, respect and the ways we can work together to stop violence – hate and abuse and don’t have a monopoly on what constitutes viral content.
“If Tate’s body of hateful, demeaning and misogynistic musings are not sufficient for TikTok to act, then we must work together as a community to provide young men with an alternate lens of respect, compassion and equality.”
A spokesman for TikTok Australia said the platform is “working to review this content and take action against violations of our guidelines”.
“We continually look to strengthen our policies and enforcement strategies, including adding more safeguards to our recommendation system, as part of our work to keep TikTok a safe and inclusive space for our community.”