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How Queer Commentator Matt Bernstein Fights Online Bigotry

Matt Bernstein

They've recently used their Instagram account to stand up to the violent misogyny of Andrew Tate.

In recent years Matt Bernstein (@Mattxiv) has emerged as a leading figure in the LGBTQ+ community on social media for their alluring blog-like Instagram account they use to highlight issues of online misogyny, homophobia, and other types of bigotry.

In early August, Bernstein used his page to call out content creator Andrew Tate, writing, "Andrew Tate is teaching young boys to be violent misogynists. It's time for social media platforms to do something." Included in their post were several examples of Tate's behavior, including one video where he claims to prefer 18-year-old girls because they have "been through less dick" and "are easier to leave an imprint on." In another video, Tate says he wouldn't perform CPR on a man because he's not gay. In the last example in Matt's post, Tate is asked by an interviewer if he thinks women are property; Tate responds, "I think my sister is her husband's property."

Within two hours, Bernstein says, their post began to gain a high amount of traffic. "Things get pretty crazy when you post something online, and it goes beyond your internet family," Bernstein says.

In the hours following their post, Bernstein began to receive an onslaught of hateful comments and direct messages. "I'm very used to generating pushback, but these were very young straight men who I don't usually deal with."

While the majority of the messages directed at Bernstein were riddled with hate speech, there were also some Tate fans coming to Tate's defense.

"A comment I was getting a lot from his fans was 'Yeah, some of the things [Tate] says are really extreme, and we don't agree with them. But most of his fans know that he's kidding. Sometimes he says things just to be edgy, but it's just satire,'" Bernstein says. "I don't care if it was satire because when you have an audience that is so large, a portion of that audience won't be able to differentiate what is said in jest and what is said in sincerity. If this man really wasn't empowering bigotry and hate speech, then why was it so concentrated among this group in my inbox? This isn't my opinion. This is what it is."

In their follow-up post that addresses the hateful response, Bernstein highlights an interesting point; Andrew Tate's hateful rhetoric is profitable for TikTok and other social media apps. Because the app receives most of its revenue from sponsorship, the more views a video has, the more sponsorship revenue.

When you compare how many views Tate's videos received in conjunction with the ongoing censorship of LGBTQ+ creators on the app, one cannot help but make the conclusion that TikTok was choosing to value bigotry over our community. "I know the pain my queer and trans friends go through on TikTok when a video of theirs gets regularly taken down because they talk about their experiences with misogyny or homophobia," Bernstein notes. "Why are these videos of Andrew Tate getting viewed in the billions? These social media companies are just not going to put ethics over revenue."

In the follow-up post where Bernstein shared screenshots of some of the messages that they were receiving, the names of those users were notably removed. "A lot of these people are kids," Bernstein says when asked about the decision to showcase the hateful comments anonymously.

They add, "I think the conversation we have on the left about masculinity isn't complete in that we tell young boys they need to disentangle themselves from toxic masculinity, but we don't give them a real path to do that. I think young boys deserve role models that they can look up to. You deserve role models that are traditionally masculine if that's your thing. The problem is that Andrew Tate exploits that vulnerability that young men are facing for personal gain."

Bernstein's goal in their post was to highlight a larger issue that goes beyond the hateful rhetoric being directed at him. This viral and cruel response from Tate's fandom says something about how our culture is raising young boys to behave online and off. The fact that social media companies are profiting from hate is not a new concept, but with this trend now appearing on TikTok, it means that young people and specifically young boys are being used to commodify hate speech.

While Bernstein was reluctant to be seen as a victim in this story, there is an obvious emotional toll that comes with having an online following on their scale. Bernstein had this to say when asked how they were feeling in the aftermath of this heated traffic: "This all made me sad because it brought to my doorstep thousands of angry young boys who are being led to this dark place online by a man who I don't think really knows the extent to his own power."

Days after The Advocate spoke to Bernstein in August, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, permanently banned Tate from their services due to violating Meta's content policies, NPR reported. Tik-Tok soon after joined the ban as well.

A spokesman from TikTok told NPR, "Misogyny is a hateful ideology that is not tolerated on TikTok. Our investigation into this content is ongoing, as we continue to remove violative accounts and videos and pursue measures to strengthen our enforcement, including our detection models, against this type of content."

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