For BBC Three this week, I released my interview with Matt Shea. Matt is the VICE journalist behind The Dangerous Rise of Andrew Tate, the documentary that saw him visit Tate’s house, interview him and visit an event for his “secret society”, The War Room.
“One hundred Tate fans flew from all over the world to try to join,” he said of this event. “And when they got there, they were presented with something called ‘The Test’ – in three days, you’ll be given the option to fight a professional MMA fighter in an actual cage-fighting octagon in the Romanian mountains.”
He did not mince words when it came to describing the attendees of this event, and of Tate’s fans in general – some of whom have been sending him death threats since the doc aired.
He said of them:
“I think a lot of men there had been hurt by women emotionally. There was a lot of divorce, a lot of men who had had their hearts broken.
“I think sometimes if that isn’t dealt with, that can make someone vulnerable to content that makes them hate women.
“A lot of them were also depressed and not satisfied with their bodies. A lot of them were beating themselves up quite a lot. It was quite sad to see.”
For more of his take on The War Room, you can visit the BBC Three website.
For the piece, my editor decided that we should focus on this one event rather than tell the entire Andrew Tate story – a story well documented online by previous articles.
This made for a better piece, but it did mean that some great quotes were left on the e-editing room floor after my 90-minute conversation with Matt.
The journalist began, for example, by describing his first impressions of Andrew Tate’s Romanian compound:
“It was surrounded by scrubland off the side of a motorway,” he says. “It didn’t look like a nice area. The compound just didn’t look like anything from the outside, but then there were six or so armed security guards which is just far too many!
“Inside, there are women repeatedly cleaning the same surfaces over and over again. He had his name emblazoned in light up logos all over the house, and people on computers doing mysterious work everywhere. It was like being in a reality TV show…He was keen to show off the image that he had cultivated.”
Tate agreed to an interview, in which he wears sunglasses and plays chess with Matt Shea. “It wasn’t 100 percent his idea,” Matt says of this, “but he loved the idea of being able to beat me at chess. He would punctuate each of his responses to my questions by saying ‘I stole your girl’ when he took my queen. I was like, ‘I don’t care, answer the question!’”
Matt’s take on the sunglasses? “One of the most difficult things to grasp is why Andrew Tate and his inner circle are seen as cool and not cringe by the young people who follow them. They’re always wearing sunglasses, there’s far too many buttons undone of the shirt with the waxed chest. It’s like someone’s trying to satirise someone from the manosphere.”
The question of whether or not this sunglass-wearing, cigar-chomping character is a persona or not is often asked in stories about Andrew Tate, but for Matt this doesn’t matter.
“The question we had in our minds when we tried to make this film was ‘does Andrew Tate actually believe what he says?’ But that notion of belief no longer really makes sense,” he says.
“In this world, the more likes and attention you get on social media, the more that becomes your actual personality. So whether or not Andrew Tate goes to bed really believing the things he says is almost irrelevant, because he says and does them. His persona was created through this audience feedback loop.”
He later added: “A common defence that Andrew Tate often says is that he’s playing a kind of satirical character. But if what these women are saying is true, then he’s not playing a character – he’s actually a dangerous predator who doesn’t just joke about strangling women, but does it.”
‘These women’ are the women who appear in the documentary – one of whom accuses Andrew Tate of being a rapist (he denies all wrongdoing, and the British Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute him). Andrew Tate is, at time of writing, detained in Romania on suspicion of human trafficking, rape and forming an organised crime group to exploit women (he denies all wrongdoing on these allegations too).