Internet micro-celebrities come and go in a flash. Jake Paul, Leafyishere, the Walmart yodeling kid, and many more people have reached internet stardom just to become entirely irrelevant within the next two years, but on a long term scale, micro-celebrities ultimately represent trends. Trends last much longer than micro-celebrities, and are repeatable. Leafyishere is a prime example of these micro-celebrities that were ousted from their platforms. The Seattle-based commentary Youtuber is often touted as the catalyst for the vitriolic anti-feminist sentiment that belies the commentary segment of the platform to this very day. Leafyishere and Yvirtoutubers like him very much represent an era of online politics colloquially known as “The Gamergate Era.”
But what is Gamergate? Gamergate was a harassment campaign launched against independent game developer Zoe Quinn in 2014, in which an online circle of self proclaimed gamers and actor Adam Baldwin (Firefly) theorized that Quinn performed sexual favors with Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun reporter Nathan Grayson in exchange for a positive review of her latest project, Depression Quest, a game inspired by their own experiences with the illness. Of course, this harassment led to their address being publicly released, and threats of varying severity being sent to any place they could see. This accusation on Quinn had also been incredibly unfounded, as it was based on a blog post Quinn’s ex-boyfriend had made, but also due to the fact that Nathan Grayson had never written a review for Depression Quest. The controversy has had long-term negative effects on how much of the internet views and interacts with both sexism and feminism.
The Gamergate Era is heavily associated with gross levels of anti-feminist rhetoric being pumped into the screens of young people, as YouTube’s recommendation algorithm associated gaming videos with anti-feminism due to the wave of anti-feminist content coming from the gaming community. This algorithmic flaw ushered many young people into reactionary, far-right content. The aftermath caused a brutally caustic attitude towards feminism that plagued young men, the style of anti-feminist hostility was especially manipulative to the (often very young, prepubescent) viewer. It has been over 8 years since the rise of the Gamergate conspiracy, but the anti-feminist rhetoric presented has returned in a new form: Andrew Tate.
If you’ve been online at all for the past months, Tate would be a recognizable figure. #andrewtate on TikTok has well over one billion views despite Tate not being on the platform. Andrew Tate is a former world-class kickboxing star who rose into further prominence through his financial advice school (the term school is being used incredibly loosely here) “Hustler’s University,” where students paid $49 a month to get financial advice promised to make people $10,000 or more monthly by participating in sketchy business ventures such as drop shipping and cryptocurrency exchange. Before Hustler’s University was shut down, it had reportedly attracted over 127,000 members according to The Guardian. The confusion many people have about Tate when they haven’t experienced his personal brand of charlatanry is reasonable: why is this guy so dang popular?
The simple answer, he’s made a cult of personality, and he’s not selling financial advice- he’s selling control.
Many of the Tate fans you will encounter end up falling into a very essential demographic for many of these “alpha male” online creators; young working class men. Within the universal human toil for control and stability, young working-class men find themselves in a unique position where they (often) lack a community and a healthy outlet for their gender expression. Life as a young man is rough from a social point of view, one of the many reason why young men experience suicide rates over 3x higher than women. Community being hardest to come by for white men, who account for nearly 70% of all suicides in the United States. There is a very real conversation to be had about the isolation that grooms young White men toward extremism, but now is the time to focus on the effects of this isolation. Vying for control and community, working-class straight men have turned to “manosphere” (an online echo chamber of like-minded “alpha males”) related content to gain control over their lives.
Enter Andrew Tate. Tate sells these wayward young men the promise of power via financial freedom. Unfortunately, this tends to be an empty promise as proven by one of the few "I Tried Hustler's University" YouTube videos that didn't have an affiliate link pasted in the description. While Tate makes a pretty penny on his work, it’s not uncommon for people to leave Hustler’s University a few hundred dollars in the hole. Since Tate cannot promise his fans financial control, he pivots, selling them control in another form - women.
Tate is undeniably a misogynist. From “women can’t drive” to claiming to date 18-year-olds to “imprint” on them on his podcast, it’s brutally obvious that Tate has less than stellar and less than scientifically found opinions on women, as men are 2x more likely to get into fatal accidents behind the wheel of a car or van, and “imprinting” is a phenomena from Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight. The way he talks about women is particularly dehumanizing and infantilizing, positioning them closer to a display of status than a partner: “You can’t be responsible for something that doesn’t listen to you. You can’t be responsible for a dog if it doesn’t obey you, or a child if it doesn’t obey you, or a woman that doesn’t obey you.” This comes into an especially sharp point as many of Tate’s fans idolize his values, associating his values with his success. This conflation is deadly.
Andrew Tate is not teaching men how to better themselves, he is teaching them to worsen their relationships with women. As a queer man, Tate has no appeal to me, his views are archaically heteronormative, but his advances are particularly alluring to straight men- who are often told that their romantic appeals must be stagnantly masculine. He sells that masculinity as a guaranteed biological trait, and that the right to women is a birthright for men. So, Tate gives generally terrible financial advice, life advice, and romantic advice- so what is Tate teaching his horde of fanboys? Simply, how to permanently scar their relationships with women.
This image of women as something to be entitled to, status symbols even, is something to fear in the men of the future. This view of their prospective partners as subservient and constantly beside themselves, eager and designated to serve the needs of men is permanently damaging to their relationships. What is love if not equal? If not equal, love isn’t love, it’s control. Teaching young men that relationships are not based in respect and equality, but instead control and ownership, we are very much set to see a further isolated generation of straight men.
Perhaps this will be irrelevant, perhaps this will be out of touch, but it’s very likely that Tate is not an instigator of this behavior as well. It’s far more likely that Tate’s wild success is owed to him filling a niche. Tate inhabits a specialized, but replicable role in the online ecosystem in reference to his values. Just as Gamergate did. What Tate truly means may be hard to face for young women, young queer people, prospective parents, current parents, educators, and anyone who has to live in the presence of the poor, disillusioned young men he has managed to seduce with false promises of control. This is a troubling pattern, and the trajectory of this pattern only increases in severity.