Without wishing to comment on the current allegations, it is worth noting that when the 36-year-old former kickboxer moved from the UK to Romania, he said part of the reason was because it was easier to avoid being charged with rape there. “I’m not a f****** rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want. I like being free,” he said in a later deleted YouTube video.
It was by no means an untypical comment. In 2017, he was banned from Twitter for saying women should “bear responsibility” for being sexually assaulted, although he was reinstated last month.
Following his arrest, a message on his Twitter account said “the Matrix sent their agents”, a reference to a far-right idea that the current world is as divorced from reality as the computer-generated one in the film series. Tate used the same concept during a spat with climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, in which he said “she doesn’t realise she’s been programmed, she doesn’t realise she’s a slave of the matrix”.
As with the pro-Trump QAnon movement or David Icke’s ramblings about lizard-people, conspiracy theorists like to pretend they know something the rest of us do not. Once they could be ignored or laughed at, now their effects on society are very serious. QAnon supporting politicians have been elected in the US, while Tate has amassed billions of views on the TikTok social media site alone.
For reasons we need to explore, large numbers of confused young men appear drawn to Walter Mitty types gone bad. However, endlessly musing on the nature of masculinity in the modern world may not ultimately provide an antidote.
A more fruitful approach could lie in a greater emphasis on the teaching of subjects like religious, moral and philosophical studies, with a focus on how to be a good human being. A greater understanding of logic and moral philosophy, in particular, could help the young generation successfully navigate the pitfalls of social media and avoid falling under the sway of deeply unpleasant charlatans like Tate.