“Michael Brooks Leaving This World Was Only the Beginning of His Legacy”

After we put out a call for remembrances of Michael Brooks, we received deeply emotional emails from his viewers and listeners all around the world about how he changed their politics — and often their lives.

Michael Brooks (1983–2020).

I knew that Michael Brooks had a massive audience that extended far beyond the United States, but I was still shocked at how many emails I received from his listeners and viewers all over the world after putting out a call for reflections on what Michael’s work meant.

The reflections were emotionally taxing to assemble, if I’m being honest. Reading them only deepened my grief at his death. But they also showed me just how deep and how wide his impact in an incredibly brief time in media was. For that, I’m grateful for everyone who wrote in.

You can read the first installment of reflections on Michael’s death from his viewers and listeners here.

Michael meant to me what he meant to so many others who deeply value internationalism and the fraternity of peoples. He was a true believer and a comrade, a breath of fresh air in a sea of cynicism.

As someone from a non-Western country, Turkey, it is hard sometimes to not feel alienated by being assigned a status of a racial/cultural other or remembered often only for political expediency. It wasn’t so with Michael. He always treated other countries/peoples with the same thoughtfulness and nuance he afforded his own.

Listening to him filled me with hope. I saw someone who not only knows a better world is possible, but who yearns for it, who can’t wait to build it together, shoulder to shoulder, and that we could all become better versions of ourselves in the process.

His show was just that: a gathering of many who cared for this world to come, of curiosity and ideas, but also an exploration of the ties that bind us, of connected struggles in a connected economy. And his vision, like his show, was joyous and fun, full of laughter and kinship.

Michael gave me hope in a way few things do, and it’s hard not to feel gutted by his passing. I can’t help but feel now we all need to try that much harder to make up for his loss.

—Defne Dalkara

The first TMBS clip I ever watched was one on Pakistan, India, and Kashmir. I was blown away by the depth of knowledge this random white guy on YouTube had about a deeply complex issue. As a Pakistani leftist, I congratulated him on a job well done, and that is how our political and personal friendship began.

With time, I learned that he wasn’t only insanely smart, he was ridiculously funny. Bernie-or-Bust Bill Clinton was my personal favorite. And with more time, I learned how generous he was. Always offering words of support or advice or aid, randomly asking how I was doing.

He went from a podcaster I admired to a friend I genuinely cared about.

He was unreasonably kind, irrationally generous. Whenever I got bullied online, I knew he’d be in my inbox sending me words of support.

If I expressed I was in the middle of a bout of anxiety or depression, there Michael would be, sending a few sentences to cheer me up. When I found out I lost PhD funding, he was the first to reach out and say he would personally contribute and support a GoFundMe.

He became a reliable source of laughter and light. He was my friend and political guiding light. I will miss him for the rest of my life.

—Aisha Ahmad

I began listening to the Michael Brooks Show not long after it started in 2018 while I was working at Whole Foods in Portland. Though I started listening out of an interest in national politics and political culture, Michael’s focus on labor and global solidarity slowly began to shift my perspective.

Instead of thinking of the job as the shitty way I made money, I saw myself and my fellow workers being exploited in innumerable ways. I started putting together the Marx I’d read in college with the low-wage work I and my fellow workers (unquestionably in worse positions than myself) were tasked with.

That summer, the Portland Democratic Socialists of America and other groups occupied the local ICE detention center after the news of family separations broke, setting off a wave of similar actions in cities across the country. When I listened to Michael shouting out these organizers on the show, speaking eloquently to the urgency and strategic advantages of an occupation, I used my sick time to help the occupation however I could.

Similarly, his enthusiasm for Bernie’s 2020 campaign — as a way for the Left to gain the most power in this country and thereby benefit the most people — played a major role in my decision to canvass and fully support the campaign. I’d like to think I’d have been as willing to jump in without regularly listening to TMBS, but it’s difficult to imagine.

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, I found that TMBS and the Majority Report were the two shows that could make any commute or bus ride through hellish traffic, trip to the grocery store, or (after the onset of the COVID lockdown) daily walks bearable. At this point, I can hardly think of a place in LA where I didn’t drive or walk and listen to Michael in some capacity. I was so excited by where the show was headed and Michael coming into his own that I became a patron of TMBS this past January, listening to hours upon hours of Brooks content each week. I can probably hear his voice in my head clearer than even some of my close friends’.

While I was an entirely passive listener, I will deeply miss listening and thinking through the show each week. I will never forget his selection of guests, the insights of his opening monologues, how he gave space to his equally astute collaborators Matt and David, his hysterical impressions, and his deeply humanist, empathetic drive.

Above all, I’m forever grateful for how he made political education as inviting, fascinating, and invigorating a journey as it clearly was for him. Like all brilliant political thinkers who left us far too soon, we will be looking back on Michael’s words and ideas for decades to come, and his influence among us will hopefully in some small way make up for his absence.

—Dan Molloy

Michael was influential to me starting after the 2016 election through the Majority Report, when I was coming into my own in my undergraduate studies. It wasn’t until almost exactly this time last year, however, that his voice made a serious impact.

I was going through a lot of personal turmoil dealing with my own mental illness, which was exacerbated by my father falling ill in a serious way, causing me to lose my job and eventually most of my friends. During that time, one of the few connections I had was the para-social relationship that I suddenly developed with Michael, who had become undoubtedly my greatest teacher. He spoke directly to and validated what was always at the core of me, all of my innermost instincts that I had let the cynicism of others suppress, because I was under the impression that it was a debilitating weakness, my capacity for empathy and impulse to see the humanity in anyone.

He proved by example that it is not only possible but virtuous to embrace sincerity without sacrificing levity, having a sense of humor about the absurdity of our callous world without being an apologist for it. What has stuck with me the most, however, is his unrelenting commitment to a dialectical approach to not just politics but all aspects of thought and life. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy since I was young, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Michael taught me more about dialectical thinking than any psychologist ever has.

I can’t even remember how I constructed my worldview or thought process before Michael. Without him, and the community he built around him, I would be psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually incomplete. I wouldn’t have any concept of the holistic and globalist perspective on politics, power, and humanism that I am so grateful to have cultivated through his teaching.

I’ve experienced a great deal of loss and tragedy for someone of my age and background, but this one has struck me in a way I never could have imagined. Michael was the voice that told me not to give in to despair when everything around me seemed to suggest that I should. I feel like he was such a beautiful embodiment of everything I could be if only I let go of the shackles that hegemony has constructed for me, for which I hold the key to but can’t bring myself to lift it to the lock.

As I enter the final stretch of my degree, I am resolute in my determination to use it to dedicate myself to the project that Michael and so many in his orbit have fought so hard to materialize. His sudden and seemingly senseless passing has shaken me to my core in such a way that is electrifying and has filled me with equal parts sorrow and intense vigor to exit my paralytic mental state and use all that I’ve learned from him to ensure that his leaving this world was only the beginning of his legacy.

—Lindsay McNab

The first time I heard Michael Brooks’s voice, it wasn’t his voice — it was Right Wing Mandela’s, on the Majority Report. It was just one of the characters in Michael’s repertoire of dialectical impressions, along with Nation of Islam Obama, 30 Gangster Hillary, and Woke Susan Collins. These voices embodied Michael’s humor, intelligence, and political savvy. He was working on a Chomsky Boston Sports Fanatic for me.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Michael announced that he would be creating his own show. I subscribed to his eponymous effort immediately.

It is rare for someone born in the heart of the empire to fundamentally understand how the United States has warped and degraded the histories and politics of all people across the globe. I believe it is because he grew up poor and experienced firsthand how US elites impoverished people within its own borders just as it did peoples in the Global South. Michael made the connections between my experience being born and raised in Hawaii and the struggles of the working class and indigenous peoples of the Global South.

But even while acknowledging the international movements that must be sustained or awoken, he did not ignore our responsibilities in the imperial core. He continually explained that power must be wrested away from the ruling class to the working people. There was a synthesis in his vision where this class struggle was a force multiplier in the struggle to destroy dehumanizing, exploitative ideologies like racism, colonialism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

In the Discord community associated with the Michael Brooks Show, I met wonderful people who have helped me put into sharper focus what is to be done. The year 2019 was the International Year of Indigenous Languages. One of my friends in this community and I wrote about dozens of languages in danger of extinction and the historical and political forces that caused this peril. There is a saying that when a language dies, a world dies. Michael strived to give us the tools to save worlds.

Michael was never satisfied with the status quo, in neither himself or the world. This drive didn’t harden his spirit but rather opened his heart and mind. I will miss him. The world will miss him.

—Joanna Hicks

On our first phone call, a fellow organizer and I pitched Michael the shell of an idea — a leftist conversation on class warfare at Harvard University. We had little to offer by way of information, little sense of the event that would take shape. Beyond our faculty advisor, Dr Cornel West, Brooks was our first confirmed speaker.

On the panel, after Dr West offered his reflections on the state of the “soul” of the Democratic Party, Michael began his reply with a mention of his debt to Dr West, “who is an influence on me.” I consider what followed to be the definitive Brooks manifesto on love and power — rooted firmly in the struggle and solidarity of Dr West’s spiritual tradition, and yet, of course, pure, undeniable Michael Brooks.

Like Cornel West, Michael thought of Martin Luther King when he thought of love and power, and when he looked toward the horizon that awaited a global leftist movement. He said he had recently played a passage from a King speech on his show that had struck him. He paraphrased: “Love without power is sentimental and anemic; power without love is abusive and corrosive.”

And he shared his response: “I thought: Well, here, okay. We know the left-wing Dr King . . . Here’s the Machiavellian Dr King, and I love it!

“I want the Left to have a Machiavelli, so that we can have the strategy, the ruthlessness, the clarity to actually win these battles, and be ruthless with institutions. And then I want us to learn how to be really kind to each other, welcoming of a broad set, and to have a movement that has the capacity to do that.”

Brooks was exactly what he wished for us, for our movement: a Machiavelli with ruthlessness and clarity in the pursuit of love and justice.

If you subscribe to the Brooks philosophy, you believe that the tougher and more worthwhile thing, the thing that makes victory not certain but possible, is engagement on the terms of kindness and of humanity recognizing itself in another. Turn to Michael’s work and you will see that he was not in the business of turning a blind eye to anything; he harbored no delusions about how simple or expedient this engagement would prove. He wanted us to stay with one another, to labor with love in order to bring about the political consciousness to grow our coalition.

The reality is that with the loss of Michael, we have lost precisely what Michael wanted for us — a leftist Machiavelli, scheming for a revolution of love and human connectedness against the international forces of commodification and dehumanization. It feels unthinkable, a blow too great to bear.

What Michael saw in the words of Dr King that he invoked at the Harvard conference was “the left-wing spiritual — but also with a vision of power.” For Michael, that power always operated in service of victory over oppression and dehumanization.

If we can synthesize that power with that spirituality, Michael said, “I think we will speak to the highest impulses of this country. We will be welcoming to people. And we will win.” When we win, we will continue to feel Michael’s absence; nothing will change that. But we will know that it was his vision for love and power that helped to make that victory possible.

—Piper Winkler

I’ve spent the last few days mourning the loss of a man I didn’t know. Or at least had never spoken to. Having stumbled across clips of the Majority Report on YouTube a few years back, I gradually picked up on the fact that this Michael guy had some serious analysis and wisdom that he was sharing, as well as a mischievous sense of humor (with an infectious cackled squeal of a laugh that seemed to consume his whole being).

Having moved north to the middle of England, about a hundred miles from my nearest friends, sitting back with the Michael Brooks Show and thinking and laughing along as he cajoled, riffed-off, and joked around with the likes of Briahna Joy Gray, Bhaskar Sunkara, Meagan Day, and Daniel Bessner often felt like a more than adequate replacement. Through the breathless hope and gut-wrenching defeats of the last few years, he was a consistent voice of moral and strategic clarity and synthesis, and brought issues onto my radar that I would have otherwise barely been aware of.

I’ve always spent a lot of my free time reading, thinking, and strategizing, and only a tiny fraction actually doing anything with the products of it all. I’ll try to use this tragedy as motivation to Be More Michael from now on, and make the best use of the time I have to further the cause of dignity, justice, and joy for everybody on this planet. There’s a huge void to fill, so I’ll try to do my bit.

—Jack Cregan

My first time seeing Michael live was at a Jacobin event in Brooklyn with Krystal Ball and Matt Karp. I was really excited because Rising had been growing quickly so it seemed like a great intimate setting to see some powerful speakers. Michael, of course, got all the great laughs and also made space for a wonderful dialogue.

It just felt like a bunch of friends hanging out, talking shop, and expanding their consciousnesses. There was a hum in the air that night, the enthusiasm shared between everyone felt electric. I feel privileged to have been in that room.

Michael spent a lot of time connecting the political with the spiritual which is something that I think there is a dearth of on the Left, but is a really important part of our collective momentum. To me, it feels like morale can be driven far with political success but needs spiritual fulfillment to even things out in times of loss and reassessment.

I feel that acutely with Michael’s passing, the need for a balance between the inner and the outer, galvanizing our politics and practicing inner calm through whatever spiritual practice we subscribe to. I wish we’d had more time with him, but I know his work will be carried on by others and his legacy will be enduring.

—Dan Bellury

I’m a forty-one-year-old guy that lives in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ve always been a voracious reader and politically conscious in some configuration of the liberal/left-ish variety. I’ve been with my wife now for ten years, who comes from a family of US State Department officials of high standing. With my intense career life in independent wine importation, coupled with the natural influence of my social environment here in the DC area, my personal politics had shifted away from my left roots.

Looking back, I now realize that I really WAS living in a bubble of state-centric, US bourgeois politics instinctively agreed upon by mainstream media sources, many of my friends who work on the Hill or in the government-affiliated private sector, and of course my extended family representing the United States government. Like many Americans, the Trump 2016 presidential victory was a shock to my system. I genuinely couldn’t understand how it was even possible, so I did what I always do: I read.

I read constantly, but I began to notice a stark contrast between the perspectives found in the mainstream news opinion factory I typically frequented and the old lefty sources I had gradually drifted from. The former group was hysterical, while the latter who clearly shared in the despair of the moment possessed a more confident analysis.

Enter Michael Brooks.

Michael’s humorous takes on public figures I had once considered unassailable from the standard “smart and informed” DC-area perspective made me smirk and simultaneously blush. His comedic impressions and searing critiques were tracking parallel to my own unfolding transformation.

I was reconnecting with Marx. I was remembering my college-era Chomksy obsession. And there, right along with me was an unexpected mentor and guide: Michael.

I continued to read, but this time Gramsci and Adolph Reed Jr, upon Michael’s recommendations. I discovered “Yoda” (Dr Richard Wolff) and “Grandpa Marx” (Dr David Harvey). The light bulbs that had grown dim over the last twenty years were suddenly flaring above me, and there seemingly right by my side was Michael and TMBS crew.

Almost instinctively, I campaigned for Bernie Sanders in Virginia, even flying to South Carolina for a week to knock on doors before. I consider the last three years of my life to be the most fulfilling in terms of rekindling my passion for politics, and Michael Brooks’s influence can’t be overstated during this time.

And Michael gave me much more. His intellectual rigor, his dedication to theory’s interface with praxis was certainly inspiring. But it was his insistence on grounding all of these ideas in a deep abiding love for fellow human beings that has impacted me the most.

During the pandemic, as Michael podcasted from his home in Brooklyn, I began to find the personal effects I could see behind him to be oddly comforting. It felt as though I was checking in every Tuesday night with three of my closest friends. And though I never met Michael or David and Matt for that matter, they will always feel like family to me as I tuned in while washing the nightly dishes.

We leftists often carry an immense load of theory and abstract analysis around in our heads. But it will always be necessary to synthesize that with real-world compassion and a commitment to solidarity with our fellow humans. Even in the Obama impressions and Dave Rubin dunking, this basic principle resonated in everything Michael produced.

I feel like I’ve lost a true mentor and a comrade. But I will celebrate him daily by continuing to stay involved in the struggle for working people.

—James Kellaris

I discovered TMBS as I was going through graduate school in international affairs. My program relied heavily on twentieth-century liberal orthodoxy, and so I went through this tension of embracing socialism domestically without knowing what it meant internationally.

Michael Brooks, through his insight, his reporting, and his sense of humor, helped me resolve that. His guests gave me as good an education as any of my professors (some of whom remain well connected to the Washington “Blob”) ever could.

But he made me laugh, too. Lord knows someone is gifted if they can seamlessly crack a joke and lay out the details of our hellscape.

After his death, the WhatsApp chat of Bernie campaign people within NYC I’m a part of lit up with tributes and messages of grief. I’d like to think that if I and others in that chat or elsewhere become better internationalists and political educators, then we’ll be carrying on his legacy. It’s a monumental task, but I feel it’s how I can repay him.

—Christian Araos

When I started watching the Majority Report eighteen months ago I remember thinking Michael was “way too liberal.” But his sharp wit, humor, and impressions kept me from writing him off. Over time, I warmed up to his perspectives and began watching his own show, TMBS. Michael taught me about Lula’s imprisonment, the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, Corbyn’s inspiring campaign platform, and the unique moment that the Bernie Sanders candidacy was providing for working people in the United States.

Michael’s ability to bring a global perspective through a lens of empathy and compassion was truly special. It was always clear that his passion for education and theory was directly tied to action and practice. He was one of my biggest motivators for becoming politically active.

This year I went on four Bernie journeys to canvass voters. I also joined DSA and recently hosted my first committee meeting. I have to say, it was all thanks to Michael’s contagious energy.

—Quinn Keitel

I found Michael (and the rest of the Majority Report crew) in 2017, when I decided to listen to less of the Joe Rogan Experience and searched for leftist political podcasts. The Majority Report, TMBS, and all of what Michael did presented an alternative that I enjoyed and really needed at the time. I still do.

Since then, my girlfriend and I both became patrons, we saw the TMBS live shows twice in Brooklyn, and we both gave Michael a hug when we met him after the Bernie Sanders rally in Queensbridge back in October. I will forever be grateful I got to meet him and tell him how much I love his work.

When I let Michael know that I had ordered three copies of his book from the leftist bookstore Red Emma’s in Baltimore, he replied right away: “Thanks brother!” I didn’t know if he actually typed out the message or if it was an auto-reply, but after hearing on the Majority Report how responsive and kind he was, I don’t doubt he read my message and considered me a fan who, despite being a stranger, was a brother.

—Daniel Hinton