Michael Brooks (political commentator)
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Michael Jamal Brooks
August 13, 1983
New York City, U.S.
|Died||July 20, 2020(aged 36)|
|Alma mater||Bates College (BA)|
Michael Jamal Brooks (August 13, 1983 – July 20, 2020) was an American talk show host, writer, political commentator, and comedian. While co-hosting The Majority Report with Sam Seder, he launched The Michael Brooks Show in August 2017 and provided commentary for media outlets, making regular appearances on shows such as The Young Turks. Brooks contributed to various publications, including HuffPost, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, openDemocracy, and Jacobin. His book Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right was published by Zero Books in April 2020.
Brooks was a self-identified progressive, internationalist democratic socialist, and Marxist humanist. He commented extensively on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, Latin America, capitalism, and the intellectual dark web.
Early life and education
Brooks was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Donna Brooks and Glenn Brooks, and grew up in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. His younger sister Lisha featured in a stream commemorating her brother's life on The Majority Report on July 21, 2020, and has since co-hosted The Michael Brooks Show.
Brooks became involved in radical politics at a young age, joining the Northampton-based Revolutionary Anarchist Youth (RAY) at 11. He also developed an interest in Buddhism, involving himself with the Insight Meditation Society and regularly participating in annual weeklong silent retreats.
Brooks attended North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens and the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School. He was accepted to the London School of Economics, but chose not to go as he decided his interests were elsewhere. He attended Bennington College for a year before transferring and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Bates College in 2009. Brooks spent his junior year abroad studying European and Turkish security studies at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.
Brooks began his career in comedy and meditation, founding the Valley Arts Project and coaching seminars at Sati Solutions. In 2011 he co-authored a meditation guide, The Buddha's Playbook, with Josh Summers. His early journalism and hosting work include his contributions to CivicActions, Talking Points Memo, and The David Pakman Show. On returning to New York City in 2012, Brooks met Sam Seder, and Seder was "immediately struck by his intelligence and his sense of humor and decided to hire him despite his ominous warning that he’s ‘not great with details.’" That year, Brooks began working for The Majority Report with Sam Seder. Along with many other colleagues, Brooks criticized MSNBC for firing Seder over a tweet that he had made in 2009. Brooks hosted INTERSECTION for Aslan Media and was an analyst for the American Iranian Council.
Brooks was known for his mixture of political analysis with comedy. Bhaskar Sunkara said, "Michael wasn’t afraid of controversy—he was happy to give an outlet to guests who criticized the Left’s less productive pieties. But he wasn’t a shock jock either. Michael could 'get away' with controversies because of how he mixed his comedy with earnestness." Seder said, "I have worked with a lot of great broadcast hosts and some of the most talented comedians in the country, and what was unique about Michael was not just his intelligence and insight into politics, particularly foreign politics, but his ability to do genuinely brilliant political comedy."
Brooks began co-hosting 2 Dope Boys and a Podcast in 2016 and announced in 2017 that he was starting The Michael Brooks Show. The podcast, which was broadcast live on tour from a variety of venues around the United States, reached 131,000 subscribers. It included interviews with Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Adolph Reed, and Slavoj Žižek. Having first heard of Brazilian president Lula da Silva in 2003, Brooks began reading BrasilWire every day during Operation Carwash and the Lula Livre movement in order to deliver updates to viewers. In January 2020, he traveled to São Paulo to interview Lula alongside BrasilWire editors Daniel Hunt and Brian Mier. Brooks also wrote the foreword to the 2018 book Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil, also by Hunt and Mier, which documents the rise of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
From April 2020 until his death, Brooks co-hosted a podcast called Weekends with Ana Kasparian and Michael Brooks, a collaboration with Jacobin. At the time of his death, Jacobin was planning to launch a second weekday webcast, The Jacobin Show, with Brooks as host.
Brooks contributed to various publications, including HuffPost, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, In These Times, Good Worldwide, Al-Monitor, openDemocracy, Jacobin and Jadaliyya. He appeared on various networks and shows around the world such as The Young Turks, HuffPost Live, Al Jazeera English, France 24, Novara Media, CCTV, Rising and Hear the Bern, the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign's podcast.
Against the Web
On April 24, 2020, Brooks's book Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right was published by Zero Books. The book is a critique of the popular figures associated with the intellectual dark web. It also argues that a focus on deplatforming has harmed the left's ability to organize, drawing upon Mark Fisher's essay Exiting the Vampire Castle (2013). It argues against essentialist thinking on the right and the left, and advocates a "cosmopolitan socialism" that is "open to all cultures and...embrace[s] and encourage[s] cultural exchange and syncretism" as an alternative. In Jacobin, Luke Savage called the book a "model blueprint for countering the reactionary narratives ascendant in the smoldering ruins of the neoliberal order." In UnHerd, James Bloodworth called the book "the most substantial critique of the IDW and its brand of 'classical liberalism' to date."
Brooks had no universal criticisms of atheism in general, but was critical of the main public figures associated with New Atheism, such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. For instance, Brooks found Harris's view of Islam ahistorical and one-dimensional. He criticized Hitchens's political shift to neoconservatism in his later years, but still approved of aspects of his politics, such as his criticisms of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Intellectual dark web
Brooks was critical of the intellectual dark web and people associated with the group, such as Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Ben Shapiro. He believed these people are "fixated on justifying hierarchies that are... socially, politically produced, and then not wanting to look at the reason why things have come in to play". Brooks wrote that Peterson is a "charlatan" and that "[people like Peterson] talk as if they’re being persecuted by the all-powerful Intolerant Left while they hold down a tenured position at a prestigious university".
Brooks was critical of the Israeli government’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He called Israel an "apartheid state" and said, "My Jewish values teach me to oppose apartheid". Brooks opposed Israeli settlements, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. He also condemned Hamas for killing and targeting civilians. Brooks believed that the two-state solution to the conflict was a "dead, discredited process".
So it's not a complex issue. That’s the big thing. It’s super simple. There’s one group [Israel] that has enormous power. It’s the most powerful country in the Middle East. It’s backed by the United States. It acts on another population of people with total impunity. It is never held accountable for anything. So, there’s no symmetry in the relationship, period.
In 2019, Brooks praised presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for saying on the Pod Save America podcast that he would use U.S. aid as leverage to get the Israeli government to act differently. He criticized presidential candidate Andrew Yang for saying he would not use U.S. aid to Israel as leverage. Brooks defended U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar after she was accused of antisemitism due to her critical views of Israel.
After the September 2019 Israeli legislative election, Brooks expressed support for the Israeli political alliance the Joint List, saying that it was "the only vehicle for pure democracy in Israel and Palestine that’s electoral".
Syrian civil war
Brooks argued that Turkey's response to the Syrian Civil War under Recep Tayyip Erdogan was partly an effort to erase Kurdish culture in northern Syria. He showed support and solidarity with the Kurds, praising the socialistic, progressive aspects of their political culture.
On July 20, 2020, Brooks died unexpectedly at age 36. A press statement said that the cause of death was a "sudden medical condition". On The Majority Report, Brooks's sister, Lisha, reported the cause of death was a blood clot. Later, it was discovered that Brooks died of a saddle embolus. Upon further medical examination it was discovered he had two separate genetic factors for increased clotting. The statement indicated that a foundation dedicated to his work would be forthcoming.
Tributes were paid to Brooks by his Majority Report and Michael Brooks Show colleagues, as well as a range of political commentators from other platforms. Former President of Brazil Lula da Silva, a personal hero of Brooks, expressed his condolences, writing on Twitter: "My heart and prayers go to his family and friends. May his passion for social justice be remembered and inspire people around the world." Jane Sanders, wife of Senator Bernie Sanders, wrote that Brooks's "work on behalf of justice, humanity, and peace and his compassionate intelligence was impressive. It will live on through many he inspired." Cornel West said of Brooks, "he’s got a soulfulness about him, and that soulfulness is not just the sharing of a soothing sweetness against the backdrop of a sensitivity of catastrophe, but it’s also Socratic, it’s deeply self-critical, he’s willing to muster the courage to scrutinize himself […] that’s where his sense of the comic comes from, that he doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t also open himself up to the ways in which he has been shaped by some of the very things he’s critical of." Marianne Williamson wrote, "We lost a real light today. Gratitude for what he gave all of us and blessings on his journey forward."
After Brooks's death, The Michael Brooks Show continued airing over 20 episodes with producers Matt Lech, David Griscom and Michael’s sister Lisha Brooks. On November 24, 2020, the team announced that the weekly show would end and that the final months of the show would be a series of panels and round table discussions in honor of Brooks and his work with intellectual scholars, guests and friends.
Matt Lech and David Griscom launched a new show, Left Reckoning, while Lisha and the Brooks family launched The Michael Brooks Legacy Project, turning The Michael Brooks Show's YouTube channel into a public commons for education and left voices. In 2021, Lisha Brooks launched a YouTube show and podcast about her brother's life and work called "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Michael Brooks." The Young Turks posthumously named Brooks "Turk of the Year".
- Brooks, Michael; Summers, Josh (2011). The Buddha's Playbook: Strategies for Enlightened Living. ISBN 978-0-55720-190-7.
- Brooks, Michael (2020). Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right. London: Zero Books. ISBN 978-1-78904-230-6.
- Burgis, Ben (August 13, 2020). "The Cosmopolitan Socialism of Michael Brooks". Jacobin. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
Michael Brooks, who would have turned 37 years old today, wanted the Left to do better.
- Sunkara, Bhaskar (July 20, 2020). "Remembering Our Friend and Comrade Michael Brooks". Jacobin. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
- Warnock, Caroline (July 21, 2020). "Michael Brooks Dead: Popular Host of 'The Michael Brooks Show' Dies Suddenly". Heavy. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Bajalan, Djene (July 26, 2020). "Michael Brooks and the Meaning of Socialist Internationalism". Jacobin. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- "Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right". Red Emma's. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "Against the Web from Zer0 Books". John Hunt Publishing. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
- "Michael Brooks: Meditation, Materialism, and Marxism". Revolutionary Left Radio.
- Chimelis, Ron (July 24, 2020). "Political commentator Michael Brooks forged his own path, friends say". MassLive. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
- The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder (July 21, 2020). "The Majority Report: Remembering Michael Brooks (1983-2020)". YouTube.
- "News from North Star alumni" (PDF). 2004. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
- "Breaking Habits into Healthy Habits: Making Good Habits Stick". The New Man Podcast. January 19, 2010. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "The Buddha's Playbook: Strategies for Enlightened Living". JOSH SUMMERS. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
- Kludt, Tom; Darcy, Oliver (December 5, 2017). "How a joke and Mike Cernovich got Sam Seder fired from MSNBC". CNN. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Afshari, Kayvon; Brooks, Michael (March 30, 2015). "Iran's anti-American rhetoric is a good sign for nuclear negotiations". American Iranian Council. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Selimiles (July 23, 2020). "Michael Brooks est mort" [Michael Brooks is dead.]. Mediapart (in French). Retrieved July 25, 2020.
- "Political commentator and podcast host Michael Brooks dies suddenly, aged 37". The Independent. July 21, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
- Mier, Brian (December 9, 2019). "Michael Brooks Interview: Lula, solidarity and the antifascist struggle". BrasilWire. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- McEvoy, John (June 12, 2019). "Massive leak exposes the 'soft coup' that gave rise to Brazil's far-right". The Canary. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Mier, Brian (2020). Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil. Blurb. ISBN 978-0464055327.
- "Weekends With Ana Kasparian and Michael Brooks". Jacobin. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "Weekends: June 6, 2020 (ft. Touré Reed)". Blubrry Podcasting – Podcast Hosting, Statistics, WordPress Hosting, Syndication Tools and Directory. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "About". 2 Dope Boys and a Podcast. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "Michael J Brooks". about.me. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "Michael Brooks: Sanders walking a 'fine line' with Castro comments". TheHill.com. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
- "Ep. 16: Brazil, Bernie, and the Fight Against Fascism (w/ Michael Brooks & Leandro Demori)". Bernie Sanders Official Website. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- McManus, Matt (March 31, 2020). "Critiquing the Intellectual Dark Web: Michael Brooks' "Against The Web"". Merion West. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Savage, Luke (July 13, 2020). "The Intellectual Dark Web's "Maverick Free Thinkers" Are Just Defenders of the Status Quo". Jacobin. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Bloodworth, James (July 1, 2020). "The emptiness of the Intellectual Dark Web". UnHerd. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- How 'New Atheists' Have Completely Toxified Godlessness, retrieved August 25, 2021
- It's Not Atheism, It's Sam Harris, retrieved August 25, 2021
- Sam Harris: Wrong on Islam, Wrong on Terrorism, retrieved August 25, 2021
- Throwback: When Hitchens Schooled Sullivan On The Differences Inside Political Islam (TMBS 90), retrieved August 25, 2021
- That Time Christopher Hitchens Slayed Henry Kissinger ft. Harvey Kaye & Daniel Bessner (TMBS 82), retrieved August 25, 2021
- Michael Brooks: What's wrong with the intellectual dark web?, retrieved August 26, 2021
- Brooks, Michael (2020). Against the Web: A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right. Zero Books. ISBN 9781789042313.
- Rubin, Ariel. "Opinion: We Americans pay Israel as it upholds apartheid. Let Palestinians be free". Des Moines Register. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
- Michael Breaks Down Israel, Palestine & Post-Election Political Factions (TMBS 108), retrieved August 25, 2021
- Michael Brooks takes a question on Israel. The Mill Series – via YouTube.
- Shoutout: Bernie Is The Only Candidate Willing To Put Pressure On Israel (TMBS 100), retrieved August 25, 2021
- Andrew Yang's Not Good, Very Bad Foreign Policy ft. Artesia Balthrop (TMBS 104), retrieved August 25, 2021
- Michael Brooks Demolishes Smear Artist On Israeli TV ft. Joshua Kahn (TMBS 81), retrieved August 25, 2021
- Bajalan, Djene; Brooks, Michael (October 10, 2019). "Turkey's War on Rojava". Tribune. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Michael Brooks: Senator Bernie Sanders is the only candidate prepared to answer questions on Syria, retrieved August 26, 2021
- Moreau, Jordan (July 20, 2020). "Michael Brooks, Political Commentator and Podcast Host, Dies at 36". Variety. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "The Majority Report: Remembering Michael Brooks (1983-2020) - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
- Stolworthy, Jacob (July 21, 2020). "Michael Brooks death: Majority Report political commentator and podcast host dies suddenly, aged 37". The Independent. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Wulfsohn, Joseph (July 21, 2020). "Progressives mourn the loss of political commentator Michael Brooks". Fox News. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
- Morrow, Allison (July 21, 2020). "Michael Brooks, political commentator and podcast host, dies at 36". CNN. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
- da Silva, Lula. "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- Sanders, Jane. "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- "PANEL 1 THE MICHAEL BROOKS TRIBUTE SERIES: Cornel West & Slavoj Žižek"The Future Of The Left" - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- Wulfsohn, Joseph (July 20, 2020). "Progressives mourn the loss of political commentator Michael Brooks". Fox News. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- Emma Vigeland [@EmmaVigeland] (October 28, 2020). "Personal news: I'm thrilled to announce that I will be joining @majorityfm and @SamSeder as co-host and producer, starting on Election Day! Anyone who is familiar with progressive media knows that the Majority Report team does incredible work. I couldn't be more excited. (1/5)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- The Michael Brooks Show. "166 - Thanksgiving and New Beginnings - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- "Think Tank #1 - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- "The Michael Brooks Legacy Project". Twitter. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- "The Brief Wondrous Life of Michael Brooks". Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- The Young Turks (December 21, 2020). "The 2020 Turk Of The Year Is... - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2021.