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 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. In 2019, 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. 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.
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 (IDW). 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."
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 plans to launch 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 plans to launch 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".
Michael Brooks, who would have turned 37 years old today, wanted the Left to do better.
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