If you’ve been on TikTok or Twitter in the last two months, or if you know any person under the age of fifteen, you know exactly who Andrew Tate is.
Tate’s claim to fame is that he was kicked off of reality show Big Brother UK after a video of him brutally abusing a woman surfaced, alongside some virulently racist and misogynistic tweets. Since then, Tate has clung tight to virality in the way that entitled con men do – by feeding fandom and outrage in equal measure, cultivating a base of primarily young men who feel betrayed by the modern dating scene and want justification for their desire to subjugate women.
Tate’s reach has grown dramatically in the last few months, with millions of views on TikTok and a large following on Twitter. His fans rabidly defend him from all criticism as he asserts that women deserve violence and secretly crave male domination. Like others on the media right – from Fox News to InfoWars – Tate uses the controversy as a money-making machine, funneling the views into momentum for his online course on how to control women.
Though Tate is not a broadly popular figure in society, he has made an impact among a swath of school-aged boys and young men, resulting in teachers reporting that some of their male students have returned for the school year refusing to take any assignments from women, as this teacher explained in a Reddit thread. This has rightfully shocked and terrified a section of youth, especially young women and queer people, as they come back to classrooms for the new school year.
Ultimately though, Andrew Tate is an insect. He’s a cockroach, earning superlatives only in the categories of “viscerally repulsive” and “hard to get rid of.” He’s actually the equivalent of a burst sewer line – an explosion of hot garbage spilling out into the street, flowing from a much larger revolting wave of gack under the surface.
Andrew Tate, vicious and irredeemable cockroach that he is, is not solely responsible for this normalization of open misogyny. Though he’d certainly want to take credit for the tangible shift in the politics of school classrooms, university halls, and workplaces, that particular unsavory stew has been cooking since long before Tate’s summer of stardom.
Mass social movements of the past five years – both #MeToo and Black Lives Matter – unfortunately failed to produce concrete victories. The natural result of these failures, and of the betrayal of the Democrats who used hollow “woke” slogans while balking at making any substantive change, is that it has empowered right-wing reaction. The promotion by liberals of cancel culture and toxic identity politics has helped create a space for the reactionaries to peddle the narrative that white, cis men are under attack – a tenet that underpins the new wave of what used to be ‘dogwhistle sexism’ reaching megaphone-volume.
The right wing has tapped into working class people’s general and correct sense that their rights are under attack in order to build support for their reactionary divide-and-rule strategy. The right has seized on people’s fear that the world is “going down the drain” as a means to build their own authority.
Tate’s celebrity is a ripple effect of this broad right-wing push – the same push that overturned Roe v. Wade, that is passing trans sports bans and eradicating trans healthcare for youth, that is outlawing “critical race theory” from schools.
Stopping the Tate Train
The left and labor movement have to provide a genuine counterweight to the right. They need to tell the truth about why things have gotten so bad for working people. That decades of neoliberalism has left us with abysmally low wages, starved public services, and generally fighting for scraps.
Organized labor must take a stance in building unity of working people. This will require unions taking a firm stance fighting the attacks on women, queer people, and immigrants coming from the right. Teachers’ unions need to reject and mobilize against attacks on queer teachers and students, nurses’ unions should organize mass noncompliance with abortion bans, and these actions should be based on building mass movements of the vast majority of people who want to fight oppression. In reality, the policy on offer from the Republican Party is deeply unpopular, though characters like Tate make the virulent minority seem larger.
The fact that the ideology of Tate and people like him is tied to the right wing means that movements to defend abortion rights and to defend trans students and gender-affirming healthcare cut across his and the right’s popularity. Students, young people, and workers should mobilize to fight on these issues, and winning victories along these lines – like abortion sanctuary victories in Seattle and Madison – will do much to curb the proliferation of bigotry.
As this year has clearly demonstrated, fighting bigotry and prejudice is not a clear line of historical progression from point A to point B – there can be huge setbacks in attitudes, which result in a real threat to the safety of marginalized people. Defeating the Andrew Tates of the world, and the ideology that sustains them, is an active battle that must be driven by masses of working people, building multi-racial and multi-gendered movements based on class unity.