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Michael Brooks Was the Leader the Left Needed. Without Him, We’re a Mess.

by Keaton Weiss

July 20 marked the one year anniversary of the passing of Michael Brooks, co-host and producer of The Majority Report and host of The Michael Brooks Show. When news broke of his death, I was shocked and devastated. I didn’t know Michael personally, but since starting this blog and podcast project, I have become acquainted with many people who did. They all loved him (the extent of my communication with Michael was as a three-time caller into The Majority Report, the most recent of which was to rant about the banality of Elizabeth Warren supporters – he eventually had to cut me off, saying, “Alright, dude, relax, I agree with you.”).

Aside from the personal tragedy of the story – the fact that he died at just 36 years old – I also knew at the time what a tremendous loss this would be for progressive politics moving forward, as Michael’s invaluable contributions to Left discourse made him an indispensable presence in online media.

As far as such media personalities are concerned, Michael was the best there was. He was the smartest – he knew his stuff inside and out, and understood global politics as well as he did US politics. He was the funniest – his impressions, his satirical character creations (particularly “Right Wing Mandela” and “Nation of Islam Obama”), and his improv chops were consistently hilarious. He was the most talented as a broadcaster – delivering brilliant off-the-cuff extended monologues, hardly ever stopping and starting, stammering, or backtracking.

Most importantly, though, Michael had a crystal clear idea of what a robust and relevant Left could eventually look like. He wanted a Left that was confident, expansive, and serious about obtaining and wielding power. This made him an incredibly important voice among Leftists, who, in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 primary loss, no longer had a central organizing objective. Absent such a grand, overarching goal of electing a democratic socialist the 46th President of the United States, the progressive movement found itself, once again, leaderless and directionless.

During this time, Michael hosted intermittent livestreams from his living room in which he would lay out a coherent strategy for progressive politics moving forward, even in the midst of Bernie’s defeat and a hopeless general election campaign. In his final video (the highlights of which are embedded below), he advocated for a “cosmopolitan socialism” which rejects both reactionary nationalist “chauvinism and essentialism” as well as the “delusion and moralism” of woke culture.

Michael’s ideas were grounded in a thorough understanding of various political philosophies, and his objectives were rooted in empathy for his fellow humans. His assuredness of the viability of his ideas was strong enough to sustain the collapse of the Bernie campaign, which is something I don’t think any other Left commentator could honestly say for themselves. He presented this vision with impeccable precision, emphasizing the importance of articulating a message that was grounded in the recognition of universal material wants and needs of all people, all around the world.

Now, one year after his passing, the Left has once again done what it’s been known to do throughout history: factionalize, disorganize, and turn on itself. Online progressive media has largely devolved into its own incarnation of reality television , where high profile YouTubers cannibalize each other with petty feuds and Twitter battles, and entire channels and podcasts seem devoted to commenting on such infighting: TYT vs. Aaron Mate, Glenn Greenwald vs. Nathan Robinson, Vaush vs. Niko House, Jimmy Dore vs. just about everyone. Some channels have gone full-on MSNBC-lite, and others have driven up their viewership and subscriber numbers by endlessly pumping out one bizarre Trump-themed bullshit story after another (without naming names, those of you who follow the indie left media world close enough to have discovered this blog almost certainly know who I’m talking about.)

Michael would have had no time for any of this. He was too serious a thinker and too committed to his political project to participate in such a debasement of what once seemed like the beginning of an actual Left movement. Without a national electoral campaign to rally around, there was of course a danger that such an unraveling would take place. Because of this possibility, we desperately needed someone of extraordinary empathy, intelligence, and clarity of purpose keep Leftists focused and on message.

Until July 20, 2020, we had that someone. Since then, we haven’t.

Nowadays, it’s impossible for me to absorb the seemingly endless barrage of gossip that’s consumed the online Left this past year without thinking of how giant a hole Michael’s passing created in this space. His channel was always high in my rotation, but if he were still around, he’d likely be the only one worth watching. While consumers of progressive online media take sides over whether or not Ana Kasparian’s private message to Jimmy Dore constitutes blackmail, the overwhelming majority of the American people don’t know who the hell either of these people are, and at this rate, they never will, because the progressive movement has lost virtually all of the forward momentum we thought we had during the 2020 presidential primary.

Michael’s presence would have, at the very least, slowed this embarrassing descent into chaos. In his absence, others need to step up. So far, this hasn’t happened. Whether or not progressives can regroup and refocus remains to be seen. But looking back on the year that’s unfolded since Michael’s death, it’s clearer than ever just how irreplaceable he is and will always be.

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