Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 12-08-22
| Andrew Tate | Murad Merali's botched apology | Trump 'Transparency' | Hitler Wine
Social Media Users & Platforms complicit in success of Andrew Tate’s Incel Schtick
In recent weeks Andrew Tate has gained significant social media notoriety for his scabrous right-wing polemic. Kickboxer turned internet personality Tate, who is 35, says 18-year-old girls are more attractive than women in their 20s because they are less sexually experienced. Tate has also said rape victims should ‘bear some responsibility’ for their attacks, and claimed he would not perform mouth-to-mouth on a man as that would be ‘gay’.
His online presence has created a mass divide amongst all age groups. Notably this week, an Infographic has circulated across Instagram (@mattxiv) highlighting how these views of Tate have real life consequences. With the rise of TikTok and accessibility of smart phones, as soon as a child has learnt how to read and write, they are able to access any trending topic on social media, including Tate’s invective.
Tate’s views have their roots in ‘Incel’ culture; a misogynistic cult whose influence has been cited as a factor in multiple mass shootings in America as well as violence around the world.
Understandably espousing Incel philosophy has been banned on mainstream social media. If you search the word ‘Incel’ on TikTok, your results page would be empty. So why can Andrew Tate express materially similar views about women and his videos are not banned?
The answer is that demagogues like Tate mean engagement and engagement means profit.
Young boys are enthralled by his flashy influencer lifestyle, and he has amassed 4.4 million Instagram followers. Despite not even having a TikTok channel his videos are rife on the newsfeed that platform’s young users too.
But at what cost? Tate’s views are being absorbed and normalised by young boys who do not know any better. Or worse still, Tate is pushing fringe extremism into the mainstream.
So could this all just be part of Andrew Tate’s PR machine? This would not be the first time a celebrity has made outrageous comments for attention, particularly in the hypermasculine arena of combat sports, with pre-reformation Tyson Fury, Connor McGregor and Jake Paul among those playing similar games.
If so, this begs the question, are we fools for arguing back? With #andrewtate being viewed 11.1 billion times on TikTok, and his Google search surpassing Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian combined, controversy has only gained Tate more attention and status. And with profits for TikTok soaring with views, who will pay the price for the circulation of dangerous homophobic and misogynistic views?
How To Ruin A YouTube Apology – Lessons from Murad Merali
YouTube commentator Murad Merali made news and trended on Twitter earlier this week as videos of him engaging in foot fetish play emerged on the platform. The sabotage came at the peak of the season for Merali, whose key content is reviewing the Love Island and interviewing its contestants.
In a number of shocking posts, a Twitter user exposed videos where Merali violently slaps men in their faces with his feet while calling them racial slurs. The videos and pictures were allegedly sourced from Merali’s old OnlyFans account, which the YouTuber does not deny.
While we have seen countless public figures exposed for past racist comments (Jefree Star) or their alleged sexual preferences (Prince William), nobody tried to come back from it quite like Murad Merali. In a promptly posted YouTube video entitled, per custom, ‘Addressing my past’, he gave a harrowing yet edited account of how he was sexually assaulted as a child. In so doing, he also completely denied using any racist language, plainly just saying: ‘it wasn’t me’, when it clearly was. In a bold move, he did not disable the comments under the video, which were universally sceptical. A lot of fans seemed not to believe his story, though a few respected his honesty. The key point, however, was that nobody really cared about Merali’s kink or how it developed. By blatantly refusing to take any accountability for what was truly outrageous about his OF content he denied himself a right to sympathy, or became outright unbelievable.
Fundamentally, his apology is uncomfortable to watch. There is something quite jarring about telling such a dark story in response to being memed on Twitter. It is perhaps even more disturbing when one tries to refute racism allegations by talking about past trauma. The public has now been long used to TMI from influencers, so it is not the sexual assault story that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth – it’s how the story is weaponized to manipulate the public. To those in need of a YouTube recovery, we would recommend a little more apologising, and a little less ‘addressing’.
Will Trump’s Transparency Trick Work?
Followers of US politics will have noted this week an extraordinary turn in the FBI’s investigation (one of many) into former President Donald Trump. It has been a moment where many are noting that Trump is basically impervious to the impersonal processes of the state, and a moment which one hears constantly about Trump's mastery of political storytelling. See David Brooks’s column from today, for example.
Already, Trump has been planting the seeds of his narrative, including calling the FBI raid a ‘siege’, attempting to depict it as a political tool of the democrats, claiming that they went through the former first lady’s underwear drawers personally (wtf?), and pressuring the Department of Justice to open up about what it is they’re investigating. That the whole thing is a secret, politicised effort by a coastal elite is key to this narrative. One of the rich ironies is the apparently unexpected step of the Attorney General to do just that, Trump’s team then considered whether it would attempt to block the release. (They decided not to.)
Today we will find out what documents Trump is accused of having stolen from the White House. Speculation is rife and one report says he took top secret nuclear information. Will it be enough to derail his political narrative? Or is it just another in the long list of Trump’s breeches of due processes that does nothing to shake his followers’ faith in him?
One theme that will no doubt continue to be discussed is the power of political narratives versus the impersonal forces of the state and judicial system. Another irony is that Trump is now accusing the judicial process of being politicised, when he attempted to do just that, attempting to transform it into a weapon against his political opponents. Though judicial norms may triumph in the end, democrats should not rely solely on the judicial process to stymie Trump's second act. Instead, they need to transform this into a counter-narrative of their own, and to do much better job telegraphing what is at stake to voters.
Hitler Wine: More corked than corker
Younger generations introduced to the Sex Pistols via Danny Boyle’s Disneyfied drama Pistol were shocked to see the early punks adorning swastikas as part of their middle finger to the establishment.
But the truth is that approaching 80 years since the defeat of the Nazis their iconography has always been a lazy and apathetic way for the attention-hungry to induce shock.
But so horrific were the Nazis that it still works to this day as evidenced this week by an Italian wine merchant who, according to The Times, has been putting dictators on wine bottles for 25 years, and has decided that now is the time to release a Hitler vintage.
The move has caused outrage in Germany, but the kind of outrage that has driven headlines around the world and apparently is driving business, speculated to have been fuelled by the continuing resurgence of the European populist far right. But there are a couple of issues with a stunt such as this: the first is that, resurgent or not, you’re only really appealling to a niche audience of bigots, free speech evangelists and shock jocks - you wouldn’t market a UK product solely to the 25% most right wing viewers of GB News and eventually the equivalent audience for the wine will run dry.
The second is simply a lack of substance. Other than the shock and/or irony of a reviled figure being used as merchandising (alongside some tasteless themed slogans) the Hitler branding doesn’t add anything to the story, or accentuate any qualities of the wine itself.
So while its authors might consider this a full-bodied stunt with a fruity bouquet, we just find the whole thing a bit corked.