How To Talk To A Young Person Who "Believes" In Andrew Tate
Or anyone Andrew Tate-adjacent.
Andrew Tate is a despicable character. Most grown-ups understand this without much thought. After all, the proudly misogynistic social media influencer was charged with human trafficking and rape in Romania, a nation the U.S. State Department considers “a primary source country for sex trafficking.” He’s a toxic con man dumb enough to attract trouble in a country known for looking the other way. What else needs to be said?
If you’re a parent whose tween or teen boy has fallen victim to Tate’s gaslight-heavy, catchphrase-filled ideology you might find yourself in the uncomfortable position of needing to know more — and how to counter his extra-toxic form of masculinity. After all, it has an appeal for good reason.
“The basis for Tate’s popularity is that boys and men are doing poorly relative to girls and women across a broad range of social and educational and health indicators,” Ronald Levant, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Akron and co-author of the book The Tough Standard: The Hard Truths About Masculinity and Violence, says. “Across the board.”
When someone close to you, like a son or nephew, comes under Tate’s sway, don’t underestimate the challenge of snapping them out of it. Tate’s not the brightest guy in the world but he’s got a canny sense for convincing disaffected young men to press that follow button. Experts note that Tate’s circular logic is surprisingly difficult to crack and that to pry young men away from his particular gaze and seemingly impenetrable ideology, requires empathy, understanding, and the stressing of authentic personal relationships. Below are their suggestions for countering Tate’s messaging.
1. Tate’s Message: Modern life is a construct — so nothing really matters but winning.
The Counter: Acknowledge the real emotions, ignore the gaslighting
Beyond the criminal accusations and the appalling allegations of violence against women that’ve dogged Tate for years, his brand and persona are breathtakingly stupid. He’s like a Bond villain brainstormed by 13-year-olds chugging Monster energy drink: a tattooed, oddly accented former kickboxer with fleets of sports cars and private jets who smokes cigars in velvet jackets and uses the nickname “Cobra”. Tate’s strangest school-yard brag is that he’s been a fearsome leader of men even before he was born; he sells a $5 ebook about his past life as a kung fu warrior.
Tate’s 6.2 million-follower Twitter feed is a jarring mix of inspirational success mindset messages, awkwardly worded self aggrandizement, whining about supposedly unfair persecution, escaping the Matrix, inscrutable misogyny, stanning for Mariah Carey (maybe the only charming thing he does, honestly), and crypto schemes.
But Tate has surprisingly effective defenses against critics. One, ridiculous as it sounds, that involves the Matrix. The Matrix is a central metaphor for Tate, with the concept representing the drudgery of the 9-5, female-dominated world that subjugates men. Tate claims to live “free” from the Matrix in the “real world” and his online community promises to teach other males to do the same. Tate’s Matrix is an illusion that traps us through deception. If you doubt Tate, you’re trapped in the Matrix and unable to see the real world.
This creation makes a real debate of the merits of Tate’s worldview impossible. “It doesn't allow conversation,” says Andrew Smiler, a therapist specializing in adolescent boys, men, and masculinity, and author of the book Is Masculinity Toxic?: A Primer for the 21st Century. “It doesn't allow an outsider to question their ideology and it doesn't require them to prove their ideology to somebody else's satisfaction.”
There’s similar pretzel logic protection for Tate’s subscription education programs. If the courses don’t lead to wealth, it’s not the fault of the curriculum but the student who’s a quitter too lazy to put in sufficient effort. “It's basically saying that my God is better than your God,” Smiler says. “So, tough luck.”
Be prepared to have a lot of doors slammed in your face and arm yourself with patience. You’ve got the truth on your side but you might have to wait until your Tate fan is ready to see it.
2. The Message: Women are lesser than men
The Counter: “What if this were true at home?”
An effective way to cut through the hostile fantasy world Tate presents is to make the stakes personal. Take the idea that Tate holds up that men should treat women like property who are not allowed out of the home. An accused domestic abuser, Tate told an interviewer that if he learned a woman cheated on, he’d “bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck.”
The impressionable men and boys hearing this violent and misogynistic rhetoric come away with a distrust and hatred for women. But it’s an abstract anger; they’re angry at women in general. The actual horror and cruelty of the world view could become clear if you show how that anger would play out in the real world, close to home. “If I was the father, I would ask the son how he would feel if I treated his mother that way,” Levant says.
3. The Message: The world is transactional. All that matters is what you can get from others.
How to counter: “Isn’t that what a conman would say?”
For a lot of young boys, Tate’s sudden rise to international notoriety was fueled by his strategy of attention-grabbing inflammatory videos and the widespread loneliness and disconnection that has gripped young men and boys since the pandemic. Alone at their computers, these boys find Tate, who offers a seemingly simple answer to social alienation that unfortunately breeds even greater loneliness in the long run: treating all relationships as transactional. You don’t look for friends; you look for people who you can use to forward your personal interests.
“From Tate's perspective, the world is straightforward,” Smiler says. “It's very transactional. You get as much as you can, you give as little as you can. And you move on.” When you start a relationship, you’re not there to make friends. You’re not looking for somebody you can confide in or turn to when you’re struggling. The goal is finding someone who can do things for you.
And here, he’s showing his hand. Tate’s $49 monthly subscription school Hustler’s University and the Real World teaches copywriting but is rife with typos. Its classes on crypto investment and e-commerce offer no certifications, degrees, or anything else of value outside of access to a global network of like-minded bros. His affiliate program, which at least offered the chance to earn a commission for signing up followers to Tate’s University, was shut down last year, drying up the sole, slim, revenue stream he directly offered followers. It’s a glaringly obvious scam whose bedrock principals are pure poison — and you should use this to your advantage.
4. The Message: In life, there are only “winners” and “losers”
How to counter: As a parent, you have to build trust and have patience.
There’s a good chance you’ll hit a few brick walls debating Tate with a true believer. Your facts could be airtight and your argument bulletproof. But Tate trains his acolytes to sort the world into winners and losers, so it doesn’t matter. You don’t have a Bugatti, so you’re a loser. They’re different and don’t have to listen to you.
Your best advantage in getting through to them, per Smiler, is to lean into your personal connection to them. “Your only chance to break through is if they know and trust you and believe you are genuinely interested in their well-being,” he says. Showing them you sincerely care about their well-being won’t turn them around immediately. But it could plant seeds that’ll find purchase as your stubborn little know-it-all grows up enough to realize they don’t actually know everything.
“There are a lot of teenagers that believe they have figured out the world and can't understand how the adults have missed this solution, which seems obvious to them,” Smiler says. “One of the things they realize with a little bit more experience in the world and as even more cognitive abilities come online, is that it's actually more complicated than that.”