Bucharest, Romania – Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan were released from house arrest in Romania on August 4, but the charges against the American-British siblings – creating a human trafficking group and sexually assaulting several women – still loom over their heads.
Recent journalistic investigations uncovered the connections between the brothers and the Romanian mafia.
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And late last month, chatroom messages analysed by the BBC revealed the evidence that dozens of women were groomed into online sex work by members of Andrew Tate’s circle.
The brothers are widely accused of misogyny, a charge they revel in, and have amassed a sizeable online following based on their controversial internet personalities.
Now, they are awaiting trial in Romania, the eastern European nation where they built a home near the capital Bucharest.
The Tates reportedly chose to live in Romania, believing it was a country where laws are loosely enforced.
In a 2022 podcast, Andrew Tate said: “I like Eastern Europe as a whole because corruption is far more accessible … I find it offensive that a police officer in England will stop me and refuse to take a bribe.”
Globally, the Tates have influenced boys and men. In Romania, too, some have been impacted by their troubling ideologies on manhood.
Ion, a 17-year-old aspiring basketball player, accused media outlets of agitating people against Tate.
“They are lying,” he told Al Jazeera, “just as they did with climate change and LGBTQ issues. The media benefits from this, from the divisions they create amongst us, from turning one against the other.”
Marius, a 16-year-old home-schooled boy from Bucharest, said Tate has had a positive effect on him.
“He might be found guilty or not, but his influence keeps on growing,” he told Al Jazeera.
Marius and Ion have watched the Tates’ content over the past year and both said they believe there is a difference between someone’s online persona and their real-life self.
Ion said he felt inspired by Andrew Tate but “does not care about what he does or does not do in real life”.
“I care and listen to what he says online, I watch his videos, I get them on my feed, and I find them relevant for our times, for our crappy world, where you can be cancelled from simply mislabeling something or misgendering someone,” he said.
Marius claimed “[Andrew Tate] motivated me to go to the gym, to do some sports, to stop complaining and to be more proactive in my life. I used to follow him more rigorously, to care more about his opinions, but now I take only what is beneficial for myself and leave everything else behind”.
“[I felt] lost, without a clear direction, but with the help of his videos, I was able to learn.”
But comments like this worry Raul Lupas, a clinical psychologist in Bucharest.
While pro-fitness campaigns could be beneficial, Andrew Tate’s messaging “incites a lot of self-righteousness, instilling a belief that ‘the end justifies the means.'”
“Andrew Tate is even more powerful because he promises something very desirable with the minimum amount of effort needed. This approach relies on no concrete understanding of the world and does not promote understanding or learning, but rather a fast way for someone without a clearly defined identity to develop a feeling of belonging.”
Raised in Luton, a town north of London, Andrew Tate, the far more influential brother, is a formal professional kickboxer whose online commentary resonates with millions of users – mostly men. He promotes the idea that to be rich is to be free, and often films himself in lavish locations, smoking a cigar, or stepping on a private jet.
Ion says his eyes have been opened to “The Matrix”, a conspiracy theory touted by Andrew Tate who says the world is not as it seems because dark powers are at play to control people.
Ion described The Matrix as “the grind from 9 to 5, that desolate existence which forces one to work for pennies for the remaining of their lives without a chance of becoming free”.
The Tates claim that they have cracked the code to The Matrix; Marius said escaping it is possible, “and that Andrew Tate can be a guide on this path”.
When asked on what they think about masculinity, Marius and Ion said “providing for the family” was important, emphasising a need to be strong. Neither spoke about emotions, the need to show empathy, to love or to care for those around you.
As Ion said, echoing sentiments shared regularly by Tate, “it is a crappy world, I am alone in it and alone I walk”.
“He is right when he talks about men having to provide for women because women just simply do not have the physical strength that men have,” said Ion, as he argued that “women should be the ones to spend more time with the children at a young age, because we, the men, simply do not have the patience to do so. There is a deeper connection between the mother and the child and we, men, lack the ability to care in that way”.
Despite Tate’s arguably negative influence, Lupas says there is a silver lining – that there are “plenty of positive masculinity examples” arising in the media.
“There are men who come forward, speak about their experience, and promote an alternative to the dominant, nonemotional, secluded and aggressive male,” he said.