Carlson interview with Tate highlights far-right’s effort to redefine traditionalism

Tucker Carlson’s interview with controversial social media influencer Andrew Tate, a self-described misogynist who faces charges of human trafficking and rape in Romania, is highlighting an effort on the far-right to redefine traditional values.

Tate sat with Carlson for a two-and-a-half-hour interview published Tuesday on Twitter, where the pair opined on a wide range of topics, including society’s purported push to put “the woman in charge, and the man below with no backbone.”

Tate has garnered millions of followers and sizable influence online for championing what he calls “traditional” masculinity. Those views include that women should “bear responsibility”  for being sexually assaulted and that “high-value” men have “unlimited options” of women — “a new model every weekend. A string of broken hearts.”

Pasha Dashtgard, director of research at American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), told The Hill that Tate’s “alpha male” way of life is not conventionally traditional.

“This is not a husband, father, head-of-household and ‘Leave It to Beaver’ vision of masculinity,” Dashtgard said. “This is a new thing.”

In deciding to interview Tate, Carlson gave over his platform to the U.S.-born British citizen, likely signaling his interest in winning over Tate’s following on social media. In doing so, Carlson joined other big names in right-wing internet culture, including podcast host Joe Rogan, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Donald Trump Jr., in amplifying Tate’s playbook to redefine traditionalism in a modern landscape.

Tate’s audience is primarily made up of young men who are “kind of confused” about their place in society, Dashtgard said.

“It’s been very convenient for opportunistic political conservatives to glom on to that, like, ‘Oh, we can appeal to this group of young men by just kind of validating Andrew Tate and the people like him.,’” he added.

Tate rose to fame after being kicked off the British version of the reality TV show “Big Brother” in 2016 for a video seemingly showing him attacking a woman, according to the BBC. The former pro kickboxer said at the time that the footage was “a total lie trying to make me look bad.”

In Romania, Tate and his brother Tristan are accused of forming a criminal gang to exploit women.

Despite that, his appeal online hasn’t much waned — and it isn’t insular. He’s part of what researchers have dubbed the “manosphere,” an online network of websites and forums promoting toxic masculinity and anti-feminist beliefs. Men’s rights activists, involuntary celibates — “incel” for short — and pickup artists help make up that realm, according to the nonprofit internet safety organization Internet Matters.

“Discourses around gender and around gender roles — that’s just baked into the cake of a lot of conservatism,” said Whitney Phillips, a professor of digital platforms and ethics at the University of Oregon. “So it isn’t surprising at all that you see some foothold for beliefs such as Tate’s, even though they are on the extreme end.”

“They exist within the same kind of spectrum that is … really emphasizing that men and women are different,” Phillips added.

As conservative men are urged to embrace this new wave of masculinity, some conservative women online are leaning into stricter adherence to traditional gender roles in the household, too.

On TikTok, done-up women in flowy dresses and aprons who call themselves “tradwives” proclaim the pitfalls of feminism, often while cleaning the house or baking bread. Instagram tradwives are aestheticizing historical family dynamics, where women are often depicted maintaining the home.

Conservative media have latched onto the trend. At the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point USA’s annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit, influencers in the online conservative political sphere urged the young women in attendance to go back to their “biblical roots” and be “feminine, not feminist,” the Washington Post reported.

“There ain’t nothing wrong with being a tradwife,” right-wing influencer Benny Johnson told the crowd.

Mairead Moloney, a sociology professor at the University of Kentucky who studies online misogyny, said those women are buying into a “patriarchal bargain,” whereby women agree to play by the patriarchy’s rules — like dressing conservatively or submitting to men — to protect themselves from a society where women increasingly lack protection.

“It really is a false premise of maintaining bodily autonomy and safety and sovereignty in a world that is increasingly dangerous towards and hostile towards women,” Moloney said.

“These women think that they’re taking a shortcut to that, when really, they don’t realize the call is coming from inside the house,” she added.

Those societal issues are a catalyst for the seeming success of new calls for traditionalism, Dashtgard said. He gave the example of a young man nervous about dating women, who is allured by Tate’s seemingly untouchable confidence.

“What often happens is there’s a legitimate grievance or legitimate concern, and that in the absence of a structural way of addressing that problem, people will come in and use that as a way of wedging their hateful, toxic ideology in there,” he said.

Since the 1950s, such grievances in conservative circles have historically been addressed by the discourse around traditional masculinity, femininity and family, Phillips said. The idea of the nuclear family, for example, was borne out of efforts to repel the perceived corruption of communist ideals during the Cold War, she said.

“You see those same kinds of discourses cropping up, except now — instead of what people need to be, or feel, or communicate that they’re trying to be protected from — it’s not communism, it’s wokeness,” Phillips said.

“I can’t overstate how important that historical parallel ultimately is, and how that then maps on to exactly the kinds of culture war issues that we’re dealing with in politics now,” she added.

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