I’M willing to admit that until last week, the name Andrew Tate meant nothing to me. Despite his overblown boast of being “the most googled man on the f***ing planet”, he’s not been trying to get on the radar of people like me.

His target market is young men, and to an extent, his success has depended on him not reaching the ears of their parents. Or, if he did, ensuring they heard only what seemed to be innocuous “influencer” mantras about ambition, discipline and self-improvement. Where’s the harm, one might think, in telling young men they have to work hard, stick to routines and make something of themselves?

Anyone who has dipped a toe into the work of the notorious Canadian writer and psychologist Jordan Peterson will likely have some answers to that. Tate – who was born in Chicago, raised in Luton, and now speaks in an awkwardly affected American accent – makes Peterson look like a Blue Peter presenter.

Since a brief stint on Big Brother in 2016, which ended after a video emerged of him slapping and whipping a woman, he has built a following by flaunting his supposed wealth and expressing sexist and misogynistic views.

Unlike Peterson, he has no notable credentials (unless you count kickboxing trophies). Unlike Roosh V, the notorious former “pick-up artist”, he hasn’t made writing about the manipulation of women his full-time job. But like both of those men, he is capitalising on the notion that feminism has left young men in the modern world rudderless, lonely, vulnerable and miserable.

Is he supposed to be a role model, a business mentor, a tough older brother or just a kind of symbolic antihero, willing to make outrageous comments about women that fit with (then shape) the disaffected worldview of those who hear them? Whatever the specific appeal, if the aim is to get young people listening then it’s definitely been working.

Teachers have been warning for months that their pupils are being radicalised by Tate, but the MP Jess Phillips last week tweeted: “To date I avoided all knowledge of Andrew Tate, I mean I got the just (sic) that he was an internet misogynist people talked about, but decided didn’t have bandwidth for another one, so never looked.”

One would hope the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding – who later deleted the tweet – would have “the bandwidth” to deal with exactly this sort of thing, rather than wait until it started trending on Twitter. Surely someone must have told her Tate’s malign influence was spilling into classrooms, and that ignoring him wasn’t going to make that go away?

By engaging in a Twitter tit-for-tat with Greta Thunberg during the limbo period between Christmas and New Year, Tate created ripples beyond his usual sphere on social media. Perhaps that was no accident. Claims he had inadvertently tipped off police about his return to his home in Romania by including branded pizza boxes in a “clap back” video message to Thunberg proved to be baseless, but the narrative of the activist taking down the misogynist proved irresistible, and the story exploded.

In truth, Tate has been hiding in plain sight since moving to Romania five years ago, telling followers that 40% of the reason he chose that country was that he believed authorities there were less likely to investigate sexual assault cases. A cynic might imagine that by Christmas he knew he was about to be arrested as part of an investigation into rape and human trafficking, and wanted to draw attention to himself and his claims he was going to be persecuted.

Romanian police did not need pizza boxes to guide them to the lair Tate has built in a warehouse near Bucharest. They raided it in April after an alert from the US embassy about a woman being held there against her will – but when Tate and his brother Tristan were released without charge, they brushed it off, saying they were victims of “swatting”, whereby an antagonist makes baseless false claims to send police to their victim’s door.

The pair run a webcam business that Tate says has made him a multi-millionaire. He has previously bragged online about his business model being “different than 99% of webcam studio owners” on the basis that “over 50% of my employees were actually my girlfriend at the time and, of all my girlfriends, NONE were in the adult entertainment industry before they met me.”

Recruiting women into the sex trade in this manner is nothing new, indeed there is a name for it: the “loverboy” method. It seems Tate’s confidence about the lax approach of the Romanian authorities to sex crimes was misplaced.

One might imagine his arrest will break the spell he has cast over his young followers. Don’t be so sure. Hogmanay tweets that may seem desperate or even deranged (“the insanity of the ruling elite is exposed worldwide now” and “the Matrix will not win”) are part of a long-game programme of indoctrination.

No parent would want to believe their son has been so brainwashed that he thinks there is a global conspiracy against men and masculinity of which Tate’s arrest is part. But how many know what their teenagers get up to online? If they knew, they might be surprised. They might be horrified.