The evolution of the grift?
Grifter: one who creates or engages in schemes to harvest or trick money out of people.
In many of the recent weeks delivering workshops and keynotes in schools around unhelpful masculinity, sexism, misogyny and online harms – between February 2023 and June 2023 I spoke to over 6,000 young people delivering my What Makes a Man or, in mixed groups What Makes A (Hu)Man – I’m often asked one question…particularly during the part of my talk where I look online influencers, podcast ‘bros’ and the fast-talking know-it-alls who claim to know the secrets to ‘what women want’ or crypto currency or making millions or ‘being a G’ or whatever their current topic of ‘expertise’ is.
The question is ‘what do you think of Andrew Tate?’
SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM FOR THE UPDATE.
AT is somewhat of an enigmatic figure – especially for teenage boys – and he’s seen in messianic terms as The G who ‘speaks truth to power’ and ‘tells you what “they” don’t want you to hear’ (THEY being a mysterious bunch of people he refers to as The Matrix who want to control everything – it’s proper conspiracy theory territory). You’ll maybe have noticed that lots of young men make the triangle symbol with their thumbs and forefingers or the diamond shape with the same digits – these are so-called ‘secret’ symbols.
How do I answer? Well, I’ve tried dodging the question, tried answering it with my opinions – that he’s supposedly made lots of money through the exploitation of women on his cam-model business and that he uses controlling behaviour to keep women working for his ‘brand’ that he supposedly moved to Romania because there was a more relaxed attitude to sexual assault claims. Also that whilst I appreciate he looks likehe has a successful lifestyle and keeps fit (aside from the ever-present cigars) there’s no real evidence that he has.
These replies tend to open up a set of well-rehearsed answers – as Laura Bates found when she spoke at schools about sexism and her sexual assault for her book Men Who Hate Women (this is a ground-breaking and seminal work on the topic of online misogyny and harm) – and a series of ‘gotcha’ type statements where the boys try to tell me that he’s misunderstood and ‘taken out of context’ on the many occasions when he’s said and done openly sexist and abusive thigs.
What do I do now? I flip the question and ask THEM what they think of AT.
- ‘he’s a G’ – it allows me to ask ‘what does that actually mean?’
- ‘he’s a millionaire’ – is he? Where’s the evidence for that? (Guardian investigation into his ‘wealth’ HERE)
- ‘he’s a kickboxing champion’ – ok, yes he was.
- ‘he’s a successful businessman’ – at this question I ask what his business model is and after a blank few sessions and embarrassed faces, they will either say, rather cryptically, ‘crypto’ or ‘cam girls’.
- “He was on Big Brother” (Famously, AT was removed from the Big Brother house in 2016 after a film emerged of him striking a woman with a belt and threatening to kill her if she spoke to another man. The producers decided he should be removed from the house. We will return to Big Brother in a little while)
OK, it’s important to say that not all young men and boys are in thrall to influencers like AT but of those I’ve met so many of the boys who follow Tate are occasionally and intentionally vague about how he got his money or indeed how much they know he has, they see him with his cars, his watches, his cigars and the trappings of a luxurious lifestyle and his brand of Aspirational Misogyny must seem appealing. As Femi Oluwole says ‘just like the Daily Mail, there’s enough palatable stuff in it to overlook the hate and AT is the same, there’s enough fitness, health, assertive talk-up and aggressive positivity to turn a blind eye to the often shared opinions and facts of the Tate brother’s empire – tax evasion, the exploitation and harassment of women, controlling tactics to ensure ‘women keep working for them’ and their own bravado-fuelled claims of taking out a machete and threaten girls who ‘get out of line’. He has also given video advice on how to evade tax using crypto currencies, telling the girls who he exploits that ‘he’ll pay the tax’ so they ‘don’t have to worry about it’ and then keeping more of the money because he says ‘girls are lazy and stupid’ so won’t even question or check up on it’.
Why didn’t those boys have chats with their parents and teachers about this inspirational role model they had come across who preached self-discipline, entrepreneurship and new ways of becoming self-determined?
Well, for two reasons I think:
- They have been conditioned / groomed NOT to do so – because parents and teachers as figures are part of ‘the matrix’ (hence the ‘mysterious’ secret hand signs) and they’ve been told by Tate that he’s let them see behind the curtain. (He also says young people shouldn’t ‘waste time reading books’ but should start their hustle ASAP – of course, signing up to his Hustler’s University which is another of AT’s products).
- Young people in general know that AT’s main source of income – as he’s claimed many times – is to ‘get women to fall in love with him so they will do what he wants them to’ and then get them working for him and his brother Tristram ‘on the camera’ with the promise of riches when they start selling access to the [p0rn] films they make.
This is, one of the reasons I’m sure so many adults were shocked when AT became talked about in autumn 2022 and then when he was publicly ‘owned’ by Greta Thunberg whom he baited with a picture of him filling as Bugatti with fuel and laughing about her attempts to raise awareness about climate change around Christmas 2022 and then his arrest for questioning by Romanian authorities, and his assets frozen. He was held for three months and then released.
Subsequently – on 20th June – he has been charged in Romania with rape and human trafficking as well as creating an organised crime group to sexually exploit women.
BBC World Service report here.
Just to make it clear, I never wanted to write about Tate really, but what he’s doing with his image and brand is essential to share to keep educators abreast of what messages their students are hearing and what that might mean in classrooms and society. AT and his brother are the visible tip of an enormous iceberg of sexism, misogyny and controlling-behaviour influencers known as the ‘manosphere’ and I’ve been mildly immersed in the output from the ‘manosphere’ for some time now due to my work in schools around online harms, unhealthy relationships, domestic abuse and coercive control. Consequently I have watched loads of Instagram and Twitter-promoted podcasts (so you don’t have to) with muscled men in suits three sizes too small speaking fast, authoritatively and machine-gun-aggressively about their recently-invented theories of relationships, pseudo-economics, entrepreneurship, pick-up ‘artistry’, the many things that women are wrong about and the many things that young men are supposedly ‘victim’ to. These podcasts have a humourless ‘these are facts’ tone to them that equates their seriousness with power.
The majority of the content aimed at men by ‘relationship coaches’ or ‘millionaire mindset dudes’ is about maintaining this old-style dominance-based masculinity and creating pride, competition and battles across men’s lives. The problem with this dominance-based approach to masculinity is that boys and men who fall under its dubious spell see a fight everywhere they look – against other men, fights for women, fights for jobs, power and against authority. Maybe this is the real ‘toxic’ masculinity we hear a lot about?
What have I learned?
That TikTok and Reels (on Instagram) are full of cleverly shot films of men pontificating on or discussing relationships which are nearly always premised on very shaky ground:
“The truth about body count” (how many women a man has slept with).
“Women want superior men”
“Women want men – deeply want – men who are competent and powerful”
“Women aren’t interested in *mating* with men who earn less than they do”
“How women can ‘get’ men of value by becoming ‘women of value’” (with their own made-up scale of value seemingly based on ancient notions of female oppression, being compliant and pretty)
“Fitness of mind and body” is apparently essential if you want to realise your potential
“What is hoeflation?” (apparently it’s the ‘work’ required by your grandfather to get a woman ‘with 5 x the value of your woman’ was 25% of the effort modern men need to put in).
“Water is a scam” according to Gavin Mayo who claims he gets his hydration from raw meat, vegetable smoothies and – wait for it – WATERmelon. Mayo also believes that ‘if your girl’s nails don’t match your Lambo(rghini) then dump her because you ‘deserve better’.
These are ‘dudes’ and ‘bros’ with YouTube podcasts saying, without insight or apparent irony, that women ‘should not be seeking validation on social media’ or that ‘women are addicted to the attention they get on social media’ are a special type of hypocritical as they desperately plead for people to subscribe to their podcasts / email newsletter and social media channels.
The guys these podcasts and YouTube videos are made by are highlighting issues that either don’t really exist or which are completely made-up, or both. This is designed to look like a sleek set of instructions that you – the viewer – can learn about by either watching the YouTube ‘tutorials’, joining a paid-for network or blog OR by joining ‘institutions’ like Tate’s Hustler’s University (now rebranded as The Real World) for a monthly fee.
Many – if not all – of the issues they have highlighted in their slickly-produced videos can be ‘solved’ by joining up to their services.
No wonder they often espouse not reading books or taking school seriously, their viewers are persuaded / guided / radicalised into thinking the solutions offered by the ‘influencers’ are what they NEED…if young people were to read and educate themselves better they’d see through the bling and bravado to see how regressive it is.
I have no idea of the numbers of young men who sign up for these kinds of online resources, but the messages they receive via social media are having a major effect on the behaviour of young men and their peers. Schools are the place that are feeling the brunt of this wave of grifting as it influences young minds to constantly question staff (especially female staff) about why they need to follow rules, triangle signs being made behind women in schools, a lack of application and an eagerness to disrupt, challenge OR remove themselves from classes. All of this is having a major effect on student’s ability to learn and teachers’ ability to hold classes free of continued diusruptions.
When AT was interviewed by the BBC journalist Lucy Williamson at his ‘compound’ in Romania, she and her questions faced a series of aggressive challenges, many denials of his previously-created and shared footage and denials of the charges that have been levelled at him.
His denials were made in very specific and quite aggressive ways, ways which conform to controlling and gaslighting behaviour:
- When challenged about his statements about allegedly using violence against women he responded ‘have you ever heard of sarcasm’? (The old ‘I was only joking’ defence / excuse).
- When the interviewer asked questions about his past that he didn’t want to answer we heard retorts about how the BBC journalist ‘doesn’t get to ask whatever questions she wants in HIS house. He’s been courteous and that she should respect him in his house’.
- When Ms Williamson put to AT the head of Rape Crisis’ fears of his influence on young men saying she was “deeply concerned by the dangerous ideology of misogynistic rape culture that Mr Tate spreads” he described it was ‘absolute garbage’ and he said it was “completely disingenuous” to “pretend” that he was damaging young people.
The above are all tactics used by abusers and coercive controllers known as DARVO – deny, accuse, reverse victim and offender. So rather than listen to the (very real) concerns across education about his effect on teenage boys and say he would correct any ‘misapprehension’ they may have gained from his previous content – which with his slick media knowledge and resources, he could do in an hour – he doubles down and accuses the media of ‘pretending’ he was a malign influence on young men.
The interview footage was then chopped and issued as Tate content before the interviewer was even out of the building.
AT is a master of Digital DARVO – Deny Accuse, Reverse Victim and Offender – and he uses footage of himself (mainly), interviews, podcast, footage of other people, himself, his ‘friends’, his crew, himself and sometimes even himself with a shirt on, to sway the stories one way or another to either confuse the truth, obfuscate or point the finger at others.
Controlling The Narrative.
Since his arrests and his dealing with the Romanian Police, the global attention he used to be so keen on seems now to be something about which he seems less enthusiastic, we are seeing a change in his content.
During the arrests / detainment phase we saw the Martyrdom – being arrested proving what he’s been saying all along that because he and Tristan are ‘brave and tell the truth’ that they’ll try and shut him up by ‘making up’ charges. (Although to be fair he has been confessing / bragging about tax evasion / abusing women / the benefits of being about to ‘hide’ crypto currency / controlling women / abusing peoples’ trust etc in his many podcasts and social media posts for years…all of which has been shared by his disciples / followers / customers / subscribers many many times, ironically making him as infamous as he is in the first place).
The evolution of the grift?
OK, now AT has been charged with human trafficking and rape as well as setting up an organised crime group to sexually exploit women he needs to change the narrative. Although he has, for a number of years, openly sharing his tactics to hoodwink women into working for him, tax evasion, his enthusiasm for violent and controlling sex and exploiting others for money as this The Mirror investigation found.
Tate apparently converted to Islam in the past year – Octobr 2022 – and is often seen carrying a copy of the Qur’an…even when he was arrested, or especially when he was arrested. This has been greeted negatively by many Muslims – especially women.
This conversion has coincided with a new tactic and a new image – his content is now like a like an exclusive hotel or whisky advert – gents together in those tight suits, laughing, sitting on leather sofas, getting out of nice cars – humbly – and holding doors open for others and there’s less cigar-smoking. In these slick adverts to masculine consumerism Tate has started sharing the benefits of some young men’s success apparently the results of their involvement in his ‘hustler university’ / Real World.
The unnerving images of Tate’s unnatural smile are accompanied with commentary which goes something like this: “always smile, always hold the door open, always give to charity – give $10 even is no one is watching, always tell the truth – inserting a split second image of BBC journalist – …because God is watching”
In another 11 second video he tells his followers – without irony – to “Stop jerking-off…because God will see you” [see the picture in the featured image for this post]. I mean this is amazing, seeing as his previous industry is designed around EXACTLY this habit and using ‘his’ cam girl models to exploit men out of their money.
Here’s where we return to Big Brother – not the TV series, but the original inspiration for it – Orwell’s authoritarian character memorably shares the three main commands:
“ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery”.
In some way, Tate has espoused all of these and made these elements of his past business models:
Ignorance is strength – convicing young men that reading is a waste of time and that they should enrol into his schemes and habits for success.
War is Peace – the history of his cage fighting years and it’s evolution into an empire that celebrates him as a ‘Top G’ is based on tools of control designed to give the Tate brothers peace and an escape from ‘the matrix’.
Freedom is Slavery – the tools of the controller used by Pick Up Artists (PUAs) are put to use by Tate’s own admission, to find and entrap women into working for him on the promise of shared riches.
Now we are asked to conform to Big Brothers ‘final and most essential command’:
“reject the evidence of our eyes and ears” and believe that AT has put all this behind him.
Forgive my cynicism, but a conversion to Islam? A sudden belief in a higher power when he’s spent years worshipping himself and money?
If money is the god you worship, you’re unlikely to value anyone or anything who can’t enrich you… hang on, perhaps that is the appeal. There is a global Muslim population of 2 billion people, a religion that has been demonised as a group since 9/11 and a cohort of men who have been made out as radicalised scapegoats for many of the world’s ills. A cohort of men looking for inspiration, who might look at an apparently successful convert as someone to look up to as they tread through the world carefully.
A conversion to Islam would have many benefits to AT and looking at his motives through his historical lens of aspiration and wealth – a conversion to Islam would provide a huge new cohort of young men who could be influenced.
Has he converted? Carrying a book doesn’t mean you’re reborn or re-virtued and the new set of video output does seem to show the rebrand he wants us to embrace and given that this change coincides with serious investigations and charging by Romanian authorities it does open up the possibility that he’s looking to capitalise on the conversion and some sort of epiphany that shows he’s ‘leaving his old life behind him’
Call me skeptical, but this smacks of “Godwashing in the face of true accountability and as the court cases move along let’s watch how his ‘faith’ is used to support his wish to move on from the past and move – potentially – towards victimhood and martyrdom.
Let’s see how this pans out and be alert to the narrative shifting in relation to Tate – it does seem to be a clearly thought-out strategy to manage the brother’s image as their trial emerges. Perhaps it is the evolution of the grift?
It’s important to keep in mind what’s happening with AT and the rest of the manosphere as their influence isn’t just about sexism and misogyny, the engagement and radicalisation of young men and boys will have a long and pernicious tail and I believe we as adults, parents and educators need to be aware of the manipulative messages they are being exposed to.
Remember, as Orwell’s ‘Party’ in Big Brother said: “reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command”.
It’s our job to notice the evidence, understand it and share our findings with our young people.
Thanks for reading – links below.
UPDATE: In a video shared by the now-suspended Twitter / X Account MurderedByCrayons (which brings the facts of the Tate brothers criminal cases and histories to the public) Tate in his own words answers the question “so what’s your religion” states smirkingly: “it’s an interesting hybrid…when I’m in Dubai I’m happy to be Muslim and when I’m in Romania I’m happy to be a Christian” to the laughs and chuckles of the two young men interviewing him.
I think this conclusively shows he’s using the artifice of religion to appear to have changed his behaviour…shockingly it seems he thinks you can take your faith on and off like a pair of mirrored shades.
Is this GodWashing then? Yes, I have to conclude that it is.
For information about What Makes A Man / (Hu)Man for students and staff CPD in your school, virtual or face to face please see here.
For information about my sessions on Coercive Control and Domestic Abuse please see here.
For recommended reading in PSHE / RSE to understand equality, sexism and misogyny please see here.
For a piece I wrote with Evie Breese for Big Issue Magazine, please see here.