I spent weeks inside Andrew Tate’s online business course – originally called Hustler’s University, it has since been rebranded to “The Real World”. The course costs £40 a month and poses as a get-rich-quick scheme with courses in e-commerce and cryptocurrency. But beneath the surface is a capitalist cult of over 220,000 young men who worship Tate and are being indoctrinated by the far-right who have infiltrated the online business course.
My experience inside Hustler’s left me convinced that it’s vital that we try to understand why young men or teenagers end up as Tate devotees. We need to try to understand the unique pressures they are under.
Every day, they spend hours scrolling through social media. Each 10-second video is a window into an unfamiliar world of exuberance and luxury. It’s not too much of a stretch to see how they might then begin to compare that with their own reality – and find something lacking.
Picture this: you’re working long hours in an Amazon warehouse, or are on a zero-hour contract for Deliveroo. Rent and bills are going up, but real-terms wages are falling – and you don’t know when the next shift is coming. You might be saving up so you can go to university, but your maintenance loan would barely cover your rent. You can’t afford to socialise – it’s cheaper to stay in, than to go out with your friends. You’ve been forced to move back home with your parents. Your dad’s pension’s been cut. Your mum’s on a waiting list for an operation – she must wait two years or go private – but she can’t afford the medical bills.
These are real situations and real lives. They’re also real concerns raised by members within Tate’s business course, who vent their financial frustrations with each other on online message boards.
For those well versed in political theory, they will tell you these issues are symptoms of a problem created by 40 years of neoliberalism: diminishing worker’s rights, dismantling the welfare state, selling off our public spaces, our health service and public housing – exacerbated by an unequitable tax system and subsequent lack of funding for local communities – leading to economic inequality and social exclusion.
The uninitiated young Hustler’s mind might not be preoccupied with political theories, but it is preoccupied with making rent, paying that bill, buying those pair of shoes and wanting that car. You do, indeed, feel trapped by a set of socio-economic circumstances out of your control – and yet, with every scroll through TikTok and swipe through Instagram, you see others indulging in a limitless life of extravagance and excess.
And then along comes a video of Tate.
Sitting on a private jet (even though, right now, he’s in prison), he talks about social isolation and the cost of living crisis. For the first time in your life, you feel like you are hearing issues that affect you being directly addressed.
You may ignore these videos at first, but with the TikTok algorithm promoting this kind of content – and with members of Tate’s online business course creating and pushing these videos from thousands of fake TikTok accounts – you will be exposed to Tate videos again and again.
In these videos, Tate presents you with a solution to your problems; access to a “community of millionaires” who will provide them with the tools you need to “escape the matrix” and get rich quick. All you must do is join Tate’s online business course.
If you join the course, you will be met with hundreds of different message boards – where you meet other young men in a similar situation. Everybody is supportive of each other in their quest to get rich quick like their saviour, Tate. There are message boards giving financial advice, working out, gym motivation, relationship advice – and even a message board where you can ask Tate questions.
The course promises to solve your financial worries, while simultaneously filling your vacuum of isolation and loneliness.
But as you venture further into the dark corners of the business course, the far-right are waiting. One message board recites Tate’s 41 tenets for life, a set of commandments written by Tate that relay his ideology: Tateism. They are riddled with misogyny, make vague assertions about free speech, honouring your ancestors and protecting the sanctity of your bloodstream.
Such far-right tropes are spread throughout the message boards. During my investigation I came across a litany of far-right conspiracy theories spread by members of the course. Allegations about the liberal world order, disinformation surrounding Covid-19, anti-LGBT rhetoric and misogyny. Members share and discuss these theories at length. They believe Tate is the latest victim of the liberal world order, trying to “cancel” his attempts to empower and free young men from the matrix.
Whereas once escaping the matrix was about escaping your economic hardship, now it has become associated with escaping the liberal world order. As part of the course, you are taught how to create videos of Tate and post them from fake TikTok accounts. Initially, there is a financial incentive via a referral scheme to Hustler’s University. Eventually you do this to spread Tate’s gospel.
Your parents may be telling you Tate’s a misogynist, your teachers are telling you Andrew Tate’s a homophobe. Inside Hustler’s University, the course “professors” are telling you they are the matrix trying to cancel you. They tell you to stay off other forms of social media – to just focus on getting rich inside Hustler’s University. You isolate yourself further until you are spreading far-right conspiracy theories online.
Hustler’s University continues to operate while Tate remains behind bars. Hundreds of young men are still being recruited into the network daily.
I leave my time there convinced that Tate is a threat to society – and while his rise from kickboxer to jailed social media influencer has been well documented, the influence Tate has over a generation of young men has been, if anything, underestimated. We should be very worried.
You can read The Independent’s full investigation into Andrew Tate’s Hustler’s University here