“Michael Brooks Was My Absolute Political Inspiration”

After putting out a call for his listeners and viewers to share their reflections on our comrade and friend Michael Brooks after his shocking and untimely death this week, we were flooded with emails. Here are a few of them.

Michael Brooks (1983–2020), hosting the Michael Brooks Show.

The news of the unexpected death of our own Michael Brooks has gutted us all at Jacobin. Brooks, who (among many other things) cohosted the Majority Report and his own The Michael Brooks Show, also contributed to the magazine and cohosted our Weekends show with Ana Kasparian on YouTube.

He meant so much to so many of us in left media — not just because his politics were good, or because of his deep commitment to true internationalism, but also because he was a genuinely wonderful person. Michael was incredibly sweet, caring, and hilarious, a genuine joy to speak to and be around. He was one of the best human beings I’ve ever met, and I still can’t think about the world without him without tears coming to my eyes.

Even people who had never met Michael felt this same sense of how tremendous a person as well as a thinker he was. I put out a call for viewers’ and listeners’ remembrances of Michael and reflections on how much he meant to them, and I received a flood of emails. We reproduce a few of them here.

I’m seventeen, and Michael was my absolute political inspiration. I watched the Michael Brooks Show whenever I could and tuned in to the Majority Report every night. I’m Kashmiri, and when tensions got really bad last year, the first thing I did was run into his inbox asking him to do a segment on it, and he replied saying he would. I loved the show he did on Kashmir. It was very close to my heart.

Besides that, Michael’s impact on me is unimaginable. He convinced me that compassion and intelligence weren’t mutually exclusive. You could be compassionate and care for others while also being intelligent and well informed. Knowledge and intellect did not have to come with arrogance and selfishness.

To him, borders meant nothing. Brazil’s pain was his own, Bolivia’s pain was his own, Kashmir’s pain was his own. I want to be just like him when I’m older.

— Maria Wani

I come from a red state and an all-boys Catholic education, where the older bullies and “cool guys” were both conservative. I started listening to TMBS because Michael was like an older brother on the Majority Report. He turned you on to stuff you’d never heard about: the African National Congress, Frantz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba. And he’d clown on his humorless fast-talking opponents at the same time. He loved elevating voices different from his, and that was effortless for Michael, because his eyes were on something bigger.

That bigger, spiritually uniting thing was more compassionate and stronger than his opponents could even dream of. I want to continue building that vision, and I know Michael’s listeners around the world agree.

— Devin O’Shea

I have been a listener of the Majority Report for more than three years, and TMBS since Michael started his show. What initially drew me to Michael was his in-depth knowledge of Turkish politics. Being Turkish, it was so shocking for someone in media to have such a thorough understanding of Turkey’s nationalism, love of Atatürk, and the parallels between Erdoğan and Trump.

I gained so much knowledge of Latin American and Caribbean politics because of the work he did on his show to discuss the role of US, Canada, and UK foreign policy in destabilizing the region. What made Michael so different from other hosts and pundits was his intense knowledge of foreign policy, and his push for international worker solidarity and basic human rights.

Michael is an irreplaceable giant in the fight for global human, economic, environmental, and civil rights. He made such an impact in my life despite my never meeting him. May his vision for a better and more just world live on in all of us.

— Erin

I’ve been watching Michael’s content for the past year and a half, and no other person has affected me and shaped my politics and worldview quite like him.

The amount of history and knowledge I’ve gained from him far surpasses anything I’ve ever learned from college or my own reading. He’s not only given me the knowledge to more confidently shape my own political views, he’s given me the confidence to express those views.

But beyond that, he’s provided so many nights of respite from the awful world we’ve been living through. Tuning into TMBS and listening to Michael, Matt, and David is like being over at a close friend’s place and cracking a few beers and having a laugh, but also leaving with key insights about the world.

I was desperately trying to download the latest episode of Michael’s Jacobin show with Anna Kasparian, Weekends, on Monday morning at a McDonald’s while traveling, but I was unsuccessful. A few hours later, I came home to the news. It’s like losing a close friend. You will be missed, Michael.

— Matthew Holland

Michael’s death has affected me deeply and unexpectedly. I found him hilarious, knowledgeable, curious, and kind. I learned so much from his work — about global politics, sure, but I also learned from his deep commitment to spirituality. My entire life, it’s made my skin crawl when people talked about anything related to their personal spiritual life. Michael did so regularly on his show and rooted his politics in a spiritual connectedness with other human beings that I could begin to understand. It wasn’t corny or cynical, it was genuinely felt by him and by his audience. I’ll miss him terribly.

— Dylan Lederle-Ensign

I was an avid watcher of the Michael Brooks Show. I tuned in weekly. I loved the variety of guests. I loved his centering of international issues and history: from South Africa to Bolivia to Brazil. I love how he engaged with folks in the comment sections (even the more critical comments). Above his political prowess and razor-sharp wit, he cared. As a viewer, it was clear he had a massive heart for humanity.

One of the reasons I found his voice so valuable is that he saw a place for spirituality on the Left. He understood the importance of founding a movement built on the principles of solidarity, love, hope, and self-sacrifice. He spoke about Eastern traditions. He did a show on Liberation theology. He interviewed Dr Cornel West about being a “revolutionary Christian.” He wasn’t dismissive. He understood that the underlying principles of varying traditions can be used as aides, even by those without a faith, to advance the leftist project. It was a unique perspective I will sorely miss. His work has made me a more educated leftist and a more open-hearted human being.

—Tose Akinmola

About a year ago, I discovered the Majority Report and consequently the Michael Brooks Show, while reckoning with living in the wake of my mother’s cancer diagnosis, what that would mean for my brother with special needs, and confronting my anxiety and depression as I continued to feel isolated living across the country for three years from friends and family. At this point, I considered myself liberal but was struggling with direction and ultimately what it even meant to label myself as such. As someone who grew up in an ultraconservative home and was a fourth grader going on pro-life marches and spouting right-wing rhetoric, I’ve made a long journey, with the assistance of books and the internet.

Hearing Michael Brooks for the first time, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about him. But he was electric and passionate, and more important than anything else, he cared deeply. This care and compassion he showed made me a fan of his in a world that often neglects people, and their hearts, minds, and struggles. Humanity was the undercurrent of every interview of his I watched, every article of his I read, and every page of his book.

I feel at a loss for someone who challenged me as an audience member when a lot of the media I had previously consumed made me feel good for making it to the liberal camp. I began to engross myself in books he recommended. I have never heard anyone speak on international politics the way he did. I have become a leftist under his unwitting tutelage.

I have pretty much listened to him every day of the past year — most of the time engrossed in what he said, sometimes in the background as a comfort, like an old friend. His honesty, wit, and laughter made long days better. He was always reminding the audience to take time for ourselves and to care for one another, which we often forget in the political sphere. He had such an optimistic spirit.

In a world often tarnished by people supporting corruption in their institutions and friends over morals, Michael Brooks was a straight arrow who spent his time, energy, and money to help and elevate others while standing firm in his convictions. I often sit and reflect after his shows on who I am and how I can improve the world around me. I still am struggling on how to manifest this best, but I appreciate where he has taken me.

Ultimately, what more can you want from someone than to question your complacency, affirm your beliefs when others are distorting your vision, and remind you at a time of deep uncertainty that it’ll be okay as long as you continue to fight? Thank you, Michael, for always giving me hope, even now.

— Carly

The first thing that comes to mind when I remember Michael is him behind a mic, gesticulating and emphasizing (in his deliberate, thoughtful Brooklynese) the phrase “mahral clarity.” It’s this moral clarity and spirituality that informed his sophisticated understanding of working-class struggle worldwide — a deep empathy for the inherent dignity of everyone, regardless of their home country, and a righteous devotion to pursuing a better world. I’m gonna miss the guy.

— Owen Stephenson

Michael brought me left from the sort of empty, “new atheism” Sam Harris bucket. He harnessed the empathy that I’ve always had and made it obvious that there’s nothing radical about moral clarity. Michael and his colleagues helped me realize how unhealthy and silly it is to attach myself to celebrities and politicians; the value is really in ideas. We don’t “stan” for any one individual.

There’s really no way for me to express how visceral his passing has been for me. The Left, the country, and the world has been robbed of his brilliance.

— Ethan Weis

I was first introduced to Michael through the Majority Report, which was a huge supplement to my political awakening around 2016. And then it was TMBS that quickly became my favorite podcast. I listened to every episode and, to be honest, Michael’s days on the Majority Report were my favorite.

I think because I came to politics later, I carried a lot of anxiety about not knowing enough about politics, the news, history. And international stuff?! I felt completely and painfully out of my depths. But that’s why I liked Michael’s show and his approach. He seemed so truly curious and excited when he interviewed his guests that it swept you up, too. And before I knew it, you found yourself talking to your friends and family about Lula and Brazil. Upon hearing about Lula’s release, I found myself thinking, “Oh, Michael Brooks is going to be so happy.”

But more than just being informative and educational, I appreciated Michael’s insistence on putting the fight for our collective dignity and humanity at the forefront. He did this in the compassion he brought to difficult issues and discussions — and his unwillingness to get bogged down in disempowering and cheap mudslinging on the Left. As someone who was learning how to be a socialist organizer at the time, this often buoyed me and made me reconsider how I went about fighting on my own local level. Listening to him often made me stop, reflect, and consider how I could do better myself.

Like many of us, I took for granted that Michael’s socialist star was ascending and bringing all of us with him for many years to come. Michael’s passing has left a massive hole in our movement. I am hoping we can carry some of his courage, curiosity, and compassion forward to continue this great shared struggle. I am certainly going to try.

— Molly Armstrong

I am feeling absolutely dejected about the passing of Michael Brooks. His courage, knowledge, and humor will be severely missed. I particularly enjoyed his interviews with left intellectuals like Adolph Reed, Cornel West, Vivek Chibber, and countless others. Whatever the topic, Michael’s analysis was always going to be clarifying and thought-provoking. His mix of grounded analysis with solidarity and internationalism will leave a huge hole on the Left.

I can say definitively that he has made me a better leftist and has informed my own work in the labor movement. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting him. But his presence in my life and the lives of many on the Left through his work is incalculable.

— Sean Crosby

One of my earliest and most enduring memories of Michael is his call for subscriptions at the end of his videos. He’d sign off with “You just watched a Michael Brooks Show video. Subscribe to get them all. Why wouldn’t you? Don’t be foolish.” From another voice or with another inflection, this might have caused consternation, but I always felt let in on some joke. I felt included. Judging from the testimonies pouring in, he had this effect on everyone.

Needless to say, I subscribed. Eventually, I took a further step and became a Patron. His shows always struck me as fostering the type of conversations and honesty that our country so desperately needs right now.

I looked (still do, in fact) to Michael as not only a guide to politics and practical concerns, but as a philosophical and moral leader. When I tuned in to TMBS, I could rest assured that I would be fed: intellectually and spiritually. He roused my righteous anger against oppression. He stoked the desire for revolution and overthrow of the systems choking the life out of ordinary folks. And above all, he left me with the road map to inclusive, successful politics: be savage to the system, give grace to the people.

— Jacob Fisher

I am a viewer of TMBS and MR from Australia. Michael Brooks and the MR crew really articulated my political views, and I was glad to find people I could really appreciate. I was struggling with anxiety and depression, finishing high school was a stress, and I felt the world was crumbling around me. But I always had the Majority Report and TMBS to listen to on the train ride to school or studying at 3 a.m., when I could listen to their show live.

Michael articulated a really intellectually consistent message and made me laugh with his impressions. I admired his humanity, such a rare thing in the world. He gave a realistic but optimistic outlook on our current position and the future of the Left.

I wasn’t sure what to study at university, but I really enjoyed TMBS and their coverage of the global political struggle, so I can thank Michael for my decision to study international relations at college. His wealth of knowledge and his extraordinary kindness is something that is so rare in the media. His voice will be missed immensely.

— Alex

I first discovered the Majority Report as a high school senior in 2013. I’ve been an avid listener ever since.

This was my introduction to the Left, and I will forever be indebted to Michael, as well as Sam Seder and Matt Binder, for showing me the shortcomings of the liberal political perspective I had embraced before becoming an MR listener. It was Michael in particular who I always connected with the most because of his ability to bring together his analysis with that biting sense of humor. I loved his impressions and characters.

I was lucky enough to interact with Michael on Twitter a few times, something I will always cherish. I’ve been a listener to TMBS since its inception, and I have recommended the show to friends as recently as this past week. I, like many people, was stunned to hear of Michael’s sudden passing.

Michael brought me to the Left by always being clear about his goal: to end the exploitation and suffering of the most vulnerable people worldwide. The international scope of his commentary will probably be his greatest legacy. It’s difficult enough to get Americans to care about what goes on in America, much less getting them to care about events in the Caribbean and Latin America. He did.

With so much arguing within the Left, Michael was one of the few to be able to bridge the gaps between factions, and I think that’s because even when you disagreed with him, you knew he was coming from a place of genuine curiosity and sincerity. To my mind, if there’s one belief that really holds the Left together, it is this: a better world than the one we currently live in is possible. Michael’s work embodied this belief, and to not have him around anymore is gutting. But it is up to all of us to honor his legacy by continuing his work.

— Kyle Conley

Michael Brooks was instrumental in my political development and thousands of others’. He was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and insightful people that the modern left had to offer. The Michael Brooks Show had a firm commitment to educating its listeners on foreign policy and promoting the international socialist movement, an issue that too many, especially Americans, ignore.

I know that I would lack any understanding of the Pink Tide or African socialist movements without his show. I never would have heard the name “Lula da Silva” if not for Brooks’s unrelenting cry of “Lula Livre” on TMBS. I am forever grateful that Brooks was a part of my ideological development, which I now strive to be a global, rather than American or Western, understanding of politics.

Brooks advocated the idea of “cosmopolitan socialism” in the face of reactionary forces worldwide and in the online sphere from the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web.” Cosmopolitan socialism emphasized that a new world, committed to justice and compassion, must draw from global traditions and cultures.

It is a deep tragedy Brooks could not develop this understanding of world politics further. But we must do it instead.

— Miller Devanney

Michael had become such a role model to me over the last few years. The way he balanced his presentation with wit, humor, and, most of all, intelligence, has left me in awe on such a consistent basis, more so than any leftist commentator. I truly felt I’d be turning to Michael’s commentary for the rest of my life. I’ve been crying for the last twenty-four hours because it feels like I lost a friend, even though we’ve never met.

What’s gotten me through the day today has been reflecting on what Michael would want. I’m reeling at this loss, but I’m comforted by his spirit and lasting message of human-centered interactions and gritty determination.

— Andrew Hodge

Like many others, I first learned of Michael from the Majority Report. Almost instantly, I began to love “Michael Thursdays,” as they gave Michael the opportunity to let his intellect and wit shine.

Michael filled the foreign policy hole that the Left had little coverage of. Like others, he introduced me to leaders like Lula and [Thomas] Sankara, who exemplified much of the internationalist vision Michael had. Michael’s confidence and commitment to what he believed has been an example for how I’d like to live my life. I am devastated with his passing, as, like many, I had hoped he would be a leading voice for the Left for decades to come. But overall, even with the immense loss I am feeling for someone I never had the opportunity to meet, I am grateful to Michael for the contributions he made toward building a left movement.

— Matt Arman

I have been fighting back tears since I learned about Michael’s death. TMBS had a profound impact on me. I felt well versed in history and geopolitics before I started watching the show, but there were a number of historical and foreign figures Michael introduced me to, like Thomas Sankara and President Lula. TMBS was my favorite political show, and Michael was my favorite political commentator.

I was able to see his live show with my fiancé and meet him when he came to Los Angeles, and I was able to experience, even if only briefly, his warm, kind, and honest nature that so many of his colleagues have spoken of in memoriam. His impact can be seen in the general change in the viewpoints of other independent media figures who associated with him since he became a more prominent figure on the Left. It is clear that his pragmatic internationalist socialism has had a profound effect on the other political voices around him.

It is hard to put into words just how deeply Michael will be missed. We were truly blessed to have had him as our voice for the short time we did.

— Erik Boyd

I don’t know what I could possibly say about Michael that others haven’t already said much better than I can. I was just a fan and patron. I never met him or interacted with him online. But he’s been a part of my weekly life for the last four years. I’ve never lost someone close to me, and I’ve never mourned someone’s death the way I have Michael’s. I feel like I’ve lost a teacher, a friend.

I’m happy to see so many are highlighting some of Michael’s best qualities. His humor. Wit. Intelligence. Empathy. His deep commitment to social justice. But there’s something else that’s different and so special about Michael that I feel hasn’t been fully articulated yet, so here’s my attempt to do that.

What made Michael so profound and impactful to me was his ability to carry light in the deep, heavy darkness that comes with being a leftist. It’s no secret that leftists tend toward depression. So much of our belief system is rooted in a lot of sadness and despair. To have empathy and feel others’ pain, to believe in the unjustness of injustice, to see our society’s cruelty and suffering and want nothing more than to heal and end that suffering. To carry that pain is a heavy burden to bear. Michael made it all more bearable.

With his infectious laugh, reaffirming confidence, and vital comedic relief, Michael gave me hope when I didn’t have any. He saw so clearly and advocated so strongly for his vision of a better world, a socialist world. His principles were fundamental to his being, and his passion and convictions in pursuit of that were unmatched. He wasn’t a pessimist. He didn’t look at all the injustices of the world with scorn for our species, but urged us to come together and fight for the better world we so badly need.

I realize why this feels like such a huge loss, because Michael carried so much of the weight of the work that needs to be done, for us. He set the bar. I’m really struggling to imagine what this world is going to be like without him, but I’m going to try to carry his lesson and light and vision and empathy with me for the rest of mine. It’s going to be hard, and right now it feels impossible. But it’s what Michael would have wanted.

He had so much more to do.

Thank you Michael, for everything you’ve done for us and everything you’ve left us with.

— Brittany

Michael had become such a role model to me over the last few years. The way he balanced his presentation with wit, humor, and, most of all, intelligence has left me in awe on such a consistent basis — more so than any leftist commentator. I truly felt I’d be turning to Michael’s commentary for the rest of my life.

I’ve been crying for the last twenty-four hours because it feels like I lost a friend, even though we’ve never met. What’s gotten me through the day today has been reflecting on what Michael would want. I’m a social worker, and I was able to productively work with two of my clients on my caseload, all with Michael’s tenacity on my mind. I’m meeting on a patio tonight at a local bar, again with Michael on my mind, to try to connect with people on a genuine basis. I’m reeling at this loss, but I’m comforted by his spirit and lasting message of human-centered interactions and gritty determination.

— Andrew Hodge

Aside from informing me, through his own knowledge and his incredible guests, about important political developments around the globe, one of his biggest influences on me was really helping me move past a lot of the noise and bullshit that often distracts us from our collective political mission. He really helped me develop an understanding of the need for real strategy on the Left, and the need to be more open and not allow ourselves to retreat into online subcultures. He introduced me to incredible thinkers, journalists, and activists through having them on the show, and he really helped me flesh out my political understanding, including knowing that differences of opinion are not that important in the bigger picture, especially when we are all allies and comrades trying to work toward the same goal.

And he really, really made me laugh.

— Ned Lightowlers

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, Jeremy 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 about 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 Democratic Socialists of America and recently hosted my first committee meeting — all thanks to Michael’s contagious energy.

— Quinn Keitel

After Bernie conceded in April, one of the themes I kept hearing on the socialist left was that we had to build more durable “mass” working class institutions that could effectively counter the Democratic Party, the corporate media, and other institutions of capital. Most people would necessarily bring up the need to rebuild the union movement, but others would point to the need for a more “mass” left media.

To be honest, when I tried to think of a concrete example of what that might look like, it was just Michael Brooks flashing in my brain over and over. The style of the Michael Brooks Show in particular — the music, the humor, the formats like “the postgame” —  all had the ingredients of mass appeal totally unique on the Left. I was seriously counting on him to be central in building mass left media institutions into the future. It’s just completely devastating to have to do this without him.

— Matt Huber

I discovered TMBS as I was going through graduate school. My international affairs program relied heavily on twentieth-century liberal orthodoxy, 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 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 hellscape we live in.

After his death, the WhatsApp chat of Bernie campaign people within New York City that 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