Greta Thunberg dealt a knock-out blow online to self-proclaimed "misogynist" Andrew Tate. However, taming the spread of toxic masculinity online is not as simple.
Two rounds, two knockouts in the all-out verbal dustup that saw Greta Thunberg win the year (or at least, the internet) in the final moments of 2022.
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“Hardly anyone is as skilled as Greta Thunberg when it comes to making supposedly grown men cry with rage,” writes Spain’s El Pais.
This, then, is a tale of Tate’s tears told in four tweets.
Greta v. Tate
First, the American boxer, social media influencer, and self-proclaimed “misogynist” Andrew Tate lashed out at the Swedish climate activist, gratuitously tweeting a picture of himself fueling a sports car. Noting that he had 33 such cars, Tate tauntingly offered to send the teenage Thunberg an account of their combined emissions.
Thunberg responded in a language both Tate and his audience would understand: “yes, please do enlighten me. email me at email@example.com.” It’s a response that has since become the fourth most liked tweet in history, and one that Tate could not ignore.
He fired back with an insult and a picture of himself in a bathrobe, smoking a cigar, with a pizza box in front of him. Visible on the box was the Romanian pizza shop that he had ordered from.
Just hours later, Romanian police raided Tate’s property in the country and arrested him on charges of human trafficking. He is still being held, and his precious car collection was seized.
Though police later denied that the photo was central to their operation, Thunberg had enough time in between news of the arrest and their statement to pounce again, posting to her account: “this is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes.”
The dark side of the Tate brothers
You might not have been familiar with Andrew Tate before the incident — but an alarming number of teenage boys certainly have heard of him and others who share his ideology.
“Inspirational monologues, defense of capitalism, and misogynist theories: ‘masculinist thought,’ which is based on the idea that there is a crisis affecting traditional social conceptions of masculinity, is spreading on social media and targeting a younger and younger audience via Twitter accounts, Telegram groups, and short videos spread on Instagram and TikTok,” Pauline Ferrari wrote last summer in an extensively reported piece for Le Monde.
Online propaganda is centrally linked to recent right-wing terror incidents in the U.S. and Slovenia.
In the United States and elsewhere, far-right influencers have turned to TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, appropriating memes and online lingo, as a way of targeting — mainly male — teenage youth with their ideas, writes Nicolas Baygert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in The Conversation.
As France’s Libération reports, Europol, Europe’s cross-border police agency, sees online propaganda as centrally linked to recent high-profile, right-wing terror incidents in the U.S. and Slovenia.
Romanian publication Puterea dug deeper into the dark underbelly of the “eccentric Tate brothers”, pointing out that their influence is built on “a bonafide industry, whose sole purpose is to promote pornography and pimping … Not only are they interlopers, supported by a real marketing machine, they’re dangerous mobsters, who promote prostitution and pornography.”
Other European sources explored what Tate’s popularity reveals about how toxic masculinity is spread online. Swedish Expressen's Helen Ablatova expressed alarm about how many men see Tate as a role model. “If there's one thing young men need, it's not Andrew Tate and his harsh rhetoric … Yes, Andrew Tate's sudden popularity is terrifying. I'd like to say I'm surprised but unfortunately I'm not. The fact that someone so blatantly, openly and extremely sexist has become so famous just shows how few male role models there are in the world. A grim, grim truth.”
While Aftonbladet questioned whether excessive coverage of Tate was inadvertently helping his views reach more people: “Shall we talk about him? Write these types of articles? Or should we rather not give ‘flat-Earthers’ extra space for their conspiracy theories?”
However, German Der Freitag pointed out that social media was not the only cause of toxic masculinity: “Social media must be understood as a place of anti-feminist radicalization. But the advertising industry, or the film industry, also echo the binary gender logic and thus strengthen power relations. This suggests, especially to young men, that it is okay to strive for competition and control.”
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