OPINIONISTA: The manosphere — a perverse space where wealth and abusive male dominance are worshipped

OPINIONISTA: The manosphere — a perverse space where wealth and abusive male dominance are worshipped

Ismail Lagardien is a writer, columnist and political economist with extensive exposure and experience in global political economic affairs. He was educated at the London School of Economics, and holds a PhD in International Political Economy.

The BBC reported this week, “Controversial influencer Andrew Tate has won an appeal in a Romanian court as he seeks the return of assets which have been seized by authorities.” His followers on social media have celebrated this as a victory for the man.

There is something perverse about the blind adoration of wealthy people, especially men, merely because they have a lot of money and/or are successful businesspeople.

Donald Trump and Elon Musk are prime examples of men who are adored for their business acumen and wealth. To these two we may add Andrew Tate — though by no means as wealthy as Musk or Trump — who may be the cynosure of the toxic male, who believes that material wealth and public status are what matter for successful manhood and life in general.

We can probably add, with necessary caveats and qualifications, figures such as Jordan Peterson and Jeffrey Epstein. Peterson has been described as a “custodian of the patriarchy”. Epstein needs no introduction and words sometimes fail to describe him fully.

Anyway, let’s focus on the trio of Trump, Musk and Tate, who are, like Peterson, quite central to a veritable “manosphere” which uses anti-feminism to frame feminist movements as the main causes of “men’s issues” and “male suffering,” thereby turning feminism into villains and men into victims. 

The manosphere is a community group of loosely affiliated and incorporated websites and social media communities that explicitly promote and protect men’s perspectives, gripes, needs, frustrations and desires.

To be clear, I am not discussing wealth or money; the queue of people who do not want an increase in income is indeed very short. I am discussing blind adoration and ideological solidarity, with wealthy men regarded as deserving of praise, adoration and support because they have a lot of money, never mind their behaviour and especially their misogyny.

Adoration of Maga

The adoration of Trump started from a perception that he was “a successful businessman,” and if you followed Jordan Klepper’s interviews of Magalomaniacs at Trump’s rallies, it is clear that Trump was/is expected to run the US as a business because he has been so successful as a businessman.  

At around the mid-point of his presidency, “85 percent of Republican voters” believed “Trump has kicked ass in the private sector … while a mere 10 percent of Republican voters view him as unsuccessful,” Vanity Fair reported. Even after The New York Times reported that Trump had lost $1-billion, his loyal supporters, journalists and hosts on Fox & Friends remained unfazed. 

“If anything, you read this and you’re like ‘wow, it’s pretty impressive, all the things that he’s done in his life. It’s beyond what most of us could ever achieve,” Bess Levin wrote in Vanity Fair on 15 May 2019.

Trump’s unflinching sense of entitlement is probably what emboldens his behaviour towards women, and the prestige and standing based on his accumulation of wealth are probably the basis of his belief in his invincibility. The crude sexism and misogyny were encapsulated by his observation that there was nothing offensive about grabbing women by the genitals. 

His sense of invincibility is summed up by his 2016 statement: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”. 

Musk has shown a similar sense of invincibility and self-assuredness. When he was questioned about recent anti-Semitic posts on X (née Twitter), and whether his company could survive an advertiser boycott, Musk seemed alternatingly apologetic and defiant — acknowledging his mistakes, then doing everything in his power to push advertisers away.

“I hope they stop. Don’t advertise,” Musk told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin. “If somebody is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself. Go fuck yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.”

Musk is often found making sexist statements and usually gets away with it. Business Insider has reported on Musk’s treatment and dismissal of women in the companies he owns.

Tate is simultaneously in a league of his own. He is part of the expanding movement of successful businessmen that dominate the manosphere. Tate’s followers refer to him as “Top G” and have remained loyal to him well beyond any claims, accusations and evidence of misogyny and toxic masculinity. 

After Tate was kicked off the reality TV show Big Brother, reportedly for striking a woman, he freshened his image, and became a mentor and bearer of the gospel of the male. He appealed to young men who “sought more from life”, offered to help them figure out the dating world and encouraged them to engage in hustle culture, because material wealth and success were the only true ways of showing one’s worth as a “man”. 

The following passage by Shanti Das in The Observer late last year sums up Tate’s image and reported conduct. See the actual video clip:

“It’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up bitch,” Tate says in one video, acting out how he’d attack a woman if she accused him of cheating. In another, he describes throwing a woman’s possessions out of the window. In a third, he calls an ex-girlfriend who accused him of hitting her — an allegation he denies — a “dumb hoe”. 

None of these statements have done much to turn the followers of Trump, Musk and Tate away. There is enough encomia for the three men on social media. There is nothing to be gained from republishing it all, here. For a flavour, see here.

Wealth and masculinity are the bookends of power in the manosphere

Each one of the three men is prayed to, as it were, for their wealth. In the manosphere, wealth is tied to masculinity — together they make up power. Tate summed this up in the following way. 

“Now, what most men do is they avoid physical confrontation because they’re cowards and they start doing fiscal confrontation. This is why so many men are obsessed with money, because it’s a degree of conquest. We can no longer walk the earth and conquer land, right? So now we conquer the land financially.” 

Elsewhere, he has said, there was no reason for “a man” to be broke. That is the old trope about people who claim to have “worked hard” for their money, never mind structural conditions and inheritances. There remain questions about Musk’s financial inheritance, but under the headline “Elon Musk Is Not An Entrepreneur — He’s A Rich, Deceitful Hack”, one especially harsh critic wrote in The Acronym, the official student paper of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy:

“Musk is far from self-made. He was born in South Africa to an extremely wealthy white family that profited off the exploitation of workers in sub-Saharan Africa and apartheid-era South Africa. Much of his family’s wealth came from an emerald mine in Zambia owned by Errol Musk, Elon’s father. 

“The African mining industry is known to be incredibly exploitative, with child labor [sic] horrible working conditions, disease, abuse of workers, and fatalities all commonplace. The workers in these mines are mostly black native residents of African countries, while the owners are usually the descendants of rich, white colonists. Musk is not a ‘self-made billionaire’, he comes from an extremely privileged family that squeezed millions of dollars out of some of the poorest nations in the world.” 

As for Trump, almost everyone, except Trump, knows he inherited a large amount of money from his father… 

Tate is, as mentioned above, a special case. The most vocal among the avatars of the manosphere, he has made a lot of money in “ugly” ways, mainly by tapping into the “hurt” of men who feel emasculated and incel self-pity. Incels are lonely young men who are “involuntarily celibate”. Tate and Peterson have been identified as “the tip of the incel iceberg”.

Tate’s misogyny, journalists on London’s Evening Standard wrote, “plays into the incel idea that women owe men sex, and that men can treat women however they please”. Or, as Trump has suggested, you can grab women by the genitals, and famous men have always enjoyed such privileges over women.

Drawing all of these strands together there is a clear link between money, power and abusive behaviour. This is tidily summed up by Al Pacino’s character in Scarface. “First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women”. DM

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