In recent months, a phenomenon has swept through social and mainstream media, presenting itself as a paragon of masculinity, success, and wisdom against those that would seek to stultify and control the masses. This phenomenon was known as Andrew Tate, and his reach is something that a Westminster MP could only dream of and envy. At the time of writing this, he has 3.7 million followers on Twitter, and has appeared on Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show, GB News, and Fox News in America. But his reach has gone far beyond the chatter of tweets and the flaccid questioning of Mr Morgan, he has a growing following among teenage boys and those who would identify themselves politically on the right. It would seem to be somewhat innocuous that a figure of influence is ostensibly presenting a message encouraging males to embrace their masculinity and to develop their resilience, but is there more to Tate than meets the eye?
Let’s go back to the beginning. For the purposes of brevity and conciseness, I’m going to avoid a detailed biography of the former kickboxer, that’s what search engines are for. After a rather successful career in kickboxing, at one point ranking second best light-heavyweight kickboxer in the world. Tate first entered the media sphere in 2016, as a guest on the reality show Big Brother, during which time he was scrutinised for his comments on Twitter. Later, he created a website offering training on wealth accumulation and male-female interactions. His most well-known venture involved his brother, Tristan, in which they worked together to operate a webcam studio using his girlfriends to manipulate male callers. A venture which, by his own admission, was a “total scam”.
Again, conciseness would prevent me from going through every controversial post or tweet from Tate. But his recent takes on issues from Covid to Meghan Markle have garnered significant attention and support, resulting in those who agree with his positions to view him in a much more favourable light, in spite of previous controversies; seeing his announced conversion to Islam as a kind of Pauline, Damascene transformation that aligns him to those of us who yearn for a preservation of traditions that have previously maximised the wellbeing of men, women and the raising of children.
Christ warned, in the gospels, of wolves in sheep’s clothing- people who will appear righteous in their sayings and public actions but have their own motives beneath the surface (he intended this as a warning to Christians about those who would enter the body of the church with ulterior motives). Too often, the right has easily clung to different individuals who mimic soundbites or present-day talking points. Interestingly, the most recent social media exchange involving Tate and Climate Changes’ equivalent to the medieval ‘Mad Child Saint’ Greta Thunberg, was actually a clash between two idols; one deified predominantly by the left, and one by the right. Battle lines were drawn and electronic foot soldiers on both sides levelled accusations of being uncritical and blindly following fallible figures; an inexperienced, and scientifically incompetent teenager, and an arrogant, belligerent, and dishonest opportunist.
The truth is that the right is as unaware of its blind spots as the ideological leftists it (rightly) opposes. Our discourse has shifted in such a way that anyone who agrees on talking points of current issues (e.g. race, biological sex, sexuality, etc.), the right’s guard seems to drop and uncritical praise, almost to the point of fawning, is showered on the speaker/writer- for clarity, I’m not precluding the ability to find common ground on these issues, and the right itself is not a monolith. For those of us who are wedded to the philosophy of conservatism, the concept of the ‘Civic Gospel’, and a return to the traditions which were most conducive to social cohesion and unified us under a common, transcendent ideal, there could not be a worse mascot than Tate. His own brand of arrogance, combined with geysers of self-promotion, referring to a nebulous conception of ‘The Matrix’, and a tone that seems as belligerent to those loyal to him, as it is to his so-called ‘haters’- is this really a voice that people think should ‘lead the forces’? This is not to say one should not be sceptical and mindful of actual moves against conservatives, but it has become something of a social-media trope to behave as though we’re aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, jacking in to judo-throw the hyper-liberals, and leap across rooftops evading the political and social gatekeeping agents.
We tend to favour the figure of the ‘strong man’- the individual who will courageously stand by their principles and ideals, fights for and defends that which is good in our world and beats back the foe. Often, people confuse this with the individual that has ‘based tweets’ or will be unafraid of cancellation. If conservatives are to truly win the battle of ideas, it cannot be with shallow social media presences, soundbites, or rallying behind unsavoury characters that cherry-pick conservatism. The blind defence of Tate by certain right-wingers, after his arrest on 29th December, claiming him to merely be a victim of ‘The Matrix’ or some other equally tenuous and incoherent cabal indicates the battle conservatives still have ahead of them- I refer to the battle within.
There are a lot of different ideas and personalities masquerading as conservatism. Some reduce it to merely the contra position to progressivism- to do this is to misunderstand the fact that conservatism isn’t anti-progress, it is merely mindful of progress, to invoke Burke, in the context of the “primeval contract” between the living, the dead, and those yet to be born. I would doubtless be preaching to the converted about the difference between the two positions. Another blind spot on the right is the often-insatiable desire to ‘own the left’. It is in this desire that I think we can find our biggest blind spot. Whether it’s personalities on mainstream/social media, or some other entity, the right has, in recent years often lost sight of its own philosophy in order to score cheap points on liberals/the left; one of the most notable examples being in the struggle against identity politics- I refer you to the appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, and the point-scoring with the Tories having the second non-white Prime Minister. It seemed some had forgotten our own history by ignoring the premiership of one Benjamin Disraeli. Granted, there is some catharsis to be had in these moments, but they come at the cost of presenting a mature philosophy that seeks to preserve the best of our society and culture.
To return to the focus of this article, Tate certainly does not represent conservatism in any meaningful way (I’m not arguing for philosophical/ideological purity per se), but he has served a purpose in exposing a ubiquitous blind spot. The Bible refers to the practice of “giving glory to the creature rather than the creator”, the modern obsession with facades, personalities and appearances over thoughts and ideas, I believe, enables this practice. It is clear that if the conservative seeks a ‘model’, it must be someone who transcends the ebb and flow of modern society, or social media soundbites. Even the institutions we venerate can no longer be trusted to be guarantors of the common good, since they themselves are captured by this wave of style and personality over substance. This is why Christian conservatives place Jesus front and centre- a man who stood apart from selfish motives, petty conflicts, but upheld ideals that touched all, while staying true to his boundaries. Whether or not one accepts the metaphysical statements he made, his life and acts, and the culture they inspired should be our gold standard, not the jewellery on Andrew Tate’s wrist.