A homage (and critique) of Michael Brooks

He brought internationalism to the US left ecosphere but it wasn’t without shortcomings

On Monday, July 20th, we learned of the passing away of Michael Brooks, co-host of The Majority Report which was the first political podcast that I became a constant follower of. At just 36 years old, every death is a tragedy, more so when it is of such a sudden and unexpected way as a blood clot in the neck (which from what I later read, is exceedingly rare). But more tragic was this happened just as Brooks’ career was taking off. His spin-off podcast, The Michael Brooks Show (TMBS) was launched in 2018 and in just two years had become and important gathering ground of the US progressive left, even managing to bring on luminaries such as Cornell West, Slavoj Zizek, Noam Chomsky, and also land Brooks an interview with Brazil’s Lula da Silva. He had also recently published a book, Against the Web, which is to my knowledge the first counterargument to the right-wing movement known as the Intellectual Dark Web.

If the interview with Lula was the highlight of his podcasting career, there’s a good reason for it. Lula appeared to be Brook’s political hero and shaped (or was shaped by) his cosmopolitan world view which was somewhat unique among the US’s notoriously insular political commentators. For us non-Americans, US news coverage of the rest of the world is something of a running joke, from embarrassing map mistakes on cable networks to a more egregious lack of nuance when analyzing foreign affairs. If they are even covered at all. And while I consider the Majority Report’s host, Sam Seder, probably the finest commentator alive today (on any media) on US politics, Brooks brought a much needed internationalist flair to the podcast, commenting on obscure Latin American and African issues of interest to a leftist audience. Issues that simply would not have been taken up by the Majority Report’s normal coverage had he not been involved. Continue reading

Meet the man that terrifies the online right

How an irreverent left-wing Brooklyn radio host became the guy even Sam Harris fears debating

What does a famous atheist with degrees in philosophy and neuroscience, a mathematical physicist and investment fund director, a YouTube comedian-slash-right-wing troll with millions of followers, the host of the world’s biggest podcast, and the host of a somewhat less popular but lavishly funded (by libertarian pockets) podcast have in common?

For starters, all of these people are well-known personalities of the New Right, particularly the ecosystem known the “Intellectual Dark Web”. This is a group of loosely collected pundits and intellectuals that have pushed forward many of the same narratives pursued by the more notorious Alt-Right, albeit with a more intellectually reputable facade (and which I have described at length in a previous long post). I am, of course, talking about Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Steven Crowder, Joe Rogan, and Dave Rubin; names that should be familiar to anyone who has spent any respectable amount of time wading through the battlegrounds of the internet’s culture wars. And in the case of Harris (one of the original “four Horsemen” of New Atheism) and Rogan (former Fear Factor host and stand-up), are also very well known in more mainstream circles as well.

What may be less familiar is the other thing that they all have in common: all five of them are seemingly terrified of having a conversation with former comedian, small-time Hollywood actor, occasional TV pundit, and full-time radio host Sam Seder. This is the story of the greatest debate on the internet that never happened and most likely never will. Continue reading