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Can you cancel a criminal?

By Sheroog Kubur, August 18 2022

Cancel culture has long confounded the internet. The original premise is easy to follow — a form of accountability whereby individuals who have behaved problematically are publicly highlighted in an attempt to incite change. In recent years, the idea of cancelling someone has warped into a phenomenon involving calling out problematic individuals, but the desired outcome is unclear. While the original idea behind cancel culture was to hold public figures accountable for their actions, the modern interpretation sees more people misusing the concept as a blanket term for calling out anything that doesn’t align with progressive ideology. 

This misuse means that any attempts at digital accountability is reduced down to a product of cancel culture. It involves recognizing the insensitivity of Rich Brian’s original stage name is an attempt to cancel him — despite the validity of the concern. By using cancel culture so liberally, the original meaning of the concept has been diluted. Being cancelled is now a badge of honour public figures can wear because of the hypersensitivity of the internet rather than a call to re-evaluate problematic behaviours and actions. 

The latest phenomenon that has been subject to cancellation are the minds behind alpha-male content. In recent years we have seen a disturbing rise in the internet niche that is the manosphere, or an online multi-platform community dedicated to unpacking different facets of masculinity. It is the antithesis of progressivism as it promotes anti-feminist beliefs and toxic masculinity. It breeds the harmful rhetoric of incels, or involuntary celibates, who blame women for any sexual or societal shortcomings. 

However, young men clued into the manosphere may not even recognize it thanks to the introduction of another player — alpha-males. The alpha-male attitude borrows from the now-debunked theory of dominance hierarchy in wolves. Men are categorized as either alphas, who are successful in their professional and personal lives — or betas — who are self-loathing and victims to female manipulation. With the rise of alpha-male content, whereby men teach other men how to become alphas, incel ideology has become increasingly normalized. 

Andrew Tate has become the face of this movement, despite many young men potentially not even knowing what it means to be an incel. The “king of toxic masculinity” started as a kickboxer and has morphed into a public personality. He quickly became a role model for young men who are interested in becoming more like an alpha male. 

Tate has 4.3 million followers on Instagram alone and his feed is a chronicle of his extravagant life and work-out videos. His real impact can be felt on TikTok — amassing billions of views for reposted podcast and YouTube clips, despite not having his own official account. When looking up his name on TikTok, the top-viewed video has 1.2 million likes and 15.7 million views. Needless to say, his impact can be felt across platforms. 

His presence has unsurprisingly caused a stir on the internet. While he is clearly popular among some circles, he has also received significant pushback. TikTok is currently under fire for not only keeping videos of his content on their platform but also algorithmically pushing them to young men. This pushback is simply referred to as attempts to cancel Tate for being contrarian or the inability to handle his “truth.”  

What differentiates Tate from other alpha males in the manosphere is that he is aggressively vocal about promoting violence against women. While other alpha personalities tend to veer towards belittling women for their alleged entitlement and sexual promiscuity, Tate openly mocks rape victims by claiming they need to claim responsibility for their assault and graphically describes how he’ll violently respond to a woman accusing him of cheating. 

Earlier this year, Tate’s home in Romania was raided as part of an investigation into suspected human and sex trafficking. His relocation to Romania was influenced by his money-making scheme involving online sex workers falling apart in London. Tate isn’t just a menace on social media — he’s accused of being a criminal. 

Cancel culture is not meant for Tate and others like him. This is not an attempt to ask him to reconsider his words — it’s a call to deplatform a man who is not only capable of violence but encourages it. His popularity is frightening, and it is unlikely that his followers recognize what makes him such a terrifying figure. There is a difference between the men at Fresh & Fit equating a woman’s Instagram account to cheating and Tate, aged 35, saying that he prefers 19 year old girls to 25 year old women because they “have been through less dick.” The difference is that, while one can be labelled as insecurity, the other is explicitly promoting and attempting to rationalize violence against women. These ideas coupled with the current investigation underway make him a threatening and dangerous presence, both online and off. 

It is impossible to cancel him because that’s never what the original movement was for. To reduce the pushback to Tate as an attempt to cancel him is reducing the severity of his actions. He is not making statements that need to be retracted, he is actively encouraging violent misogyny to a generation of young and impressionable men. There is a fine line to walk between being an internet personality and a genuine threat to society and Tate shamelessly jumped headfirst into the latter. However, because the pushback is digital with little bearing outcome, it will be reduced to another failed attempt to cancel someone. 

Cancel culture was never meant to be anything more than an attempt at accountability. If it was successful, then it was proof that collective action can have an impact. However, when it comes to individuals who are clearly violating the law, that is not the responsibility of an internet community to deplatform them. It is the responsibility of law enforcement to investigate their actions and draw their own conclusions. Holding a criminal accountable for their actions is not cancel culture — it’s the law.

This article is a part of our Voices section.

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