In memory of Michael Brooks, the left’s best commentator

Michael Brooks

Brooks, known for his humor and insight, passed last week, age 36.

Humanity lost a tremendous ally last week when Michael Brooks, a cohost of The Majority Report with Sam Seder and host of his own The Michael Brooks Show, passed away at the age of 36. Michael was an informed, insightful, witty, and moral voice for a better world. Outpourings of sadness and support came from thousands of activists, journalists, and political figures, including Chris Hayes, Dr. Cornel West, and even former Brazilian President Lula da Silva.

Brooks transcended the world of internet commentary. With Seder, he broke news stories down to their most essential components with rigorous philosophical and moral investigation. He brought a uniquely internationalist perspective to mainstream leftist YouTube, frequently referencing social movements in Latin America in particular. He articulated himself carefully, almost pedantically, but always with an immense amount of warmth, charm, and compassion.

To call Brooks a political analyst almost cheapens the work he did. He dove deeper. Among podcasters, he was without equal. Brooks never simply read headlines. He placed everything in the context of history and our collective aspirations as people.

He was as scathing in his satire as he was cogent in his analysis. One of the best of his many impressions was of Dave Rubin, a podcaster who specializes in normalizing far-right views. Brooks captured Rubin as a cynical dunce who thought bigotry was a valid “idea” to be debated. Brooks also nailed Obama, creating the hilarious and politically incorrect Nation of Islam Obama character to mock the right-wing perception of the former president as an extremist. Brooks imagined Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka as a pompous, arrogant Saturday morning cartoon villain.

Joe Rogan once criticized Brooks as a bully for his unforgiving ridicule of Rubin. Brooks felt sympathy for those who disagreed with him, who had been bamboozled by politicians and pundits, saying, “Be ruthless with systems; be kind to people.” But he didn’t see his differences with Rubin as an honest disagreement. Brooks had the moral clarity to be merciless with bad-faith actors like Rubin and Ben Shapiro, who knowingly work to make life harder for people who haven’t been as fortunate as them.

For his combination of humor, insight, curiosity, and moral wisdom, Brooks would surely have taken his place among Twain, Carlin, and Chomsky. He fit into no orthodoxy other than the one he formed, and continually evolved, based on his perception of what was true and just in the world.

Following an outpouring of support shortly after his passing, Brooks’s recently released book, Against the Web, was backordered at major retailers. The book directly challenged the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a loose coalition of right-wing cultural figures who, despite their large audiences and generous media coverage, frequently complain of being censored. Against the Web is a volley in the larger battle waged by Brooks and The Majority Report to counter the growing, pernicious indoctrination of young people on the internet by the far right.

While the political left is largely scrambled and without obvious leaders, Brooks was a unifier. He was not just a model for commentators, satirists, or activists to aspire to. He was a philosopher who laid serious foundation for a humane, compassionate, sustainable human project. As a performer he conveyed the true joy he felt in making the world a better place, whether by educating us on important class issues or by scoring a trivial laugh on a far-right clown.

There are no content creators who can match Brooks’s record. We lost one of the all-time greats before he had a chance to get there. Fortunately, by being so universal and philosophical in his approach, the hundreds of hours of content Brooks created is timeless and will remain recommended viewing for generations. May he rest in power.