Review: “Against the Web: a Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right” by Michael Brooks

Against the Web: a Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right is an actual book that is actually trying to be serious in it’s critique of “The Intellectual Dark Web”. I say that despite all the evidence to the contrary littered between the cover and the back end. If I hadn’t bought the thing on Apple Books myself, I would be steadfast in the belief that I had somehow ingested a toxic laughing gas while the author Michael Brooks read off his list of sworn enemies into my ear. The reader will find themselves jumping from topic to topic over large pools of vitriol aimed at the “IDW”, which consists mainly of Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Sam Harris. 

Amazingly, in an age where both Left and Right are skeptical about our magnanimous Tech overlords and Mainstream Media executives picking and choosing what voices we hear, Mr. Brooks’ failure to establish a coherent voice other than one railing on about the virtues of Liberal Socialism has indeed done the impossible: renewed my faith in media gatekeeping(I am only half joking). This book would not have been published by someone concerned with good writing and an inviting style of storytelling. Let us see what I believe went wrong with Mr. Brooks’ maiden voyage into publishing and see if there is anything worth salvaging from this ship wreck. 

—–

In boxing, the longer and lankier man has a distinct advantage in that he should be able to keep his opponent at bay with a healthy, steady, and well timed jab; the operative term here in our case will be healthy (although all three of these virtues seemed unavailable to the author). Mr. Brooks apparently never took a boxing class, thus has no clue as to the meaning of the phrase healthy jab. What I mean to say is a prick and a poke here and there would be one thing, but this guy comes out at the opening bell with straight nut shots. Ad hominem insults litter the pages of this book from beginning to end. They are not clever. They are not fun. Hell, they don’t even seem to be in good spirit, either. Mr. Brooks throws insult after insult at the subjects of his book: Ben Shapiro, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, and Dave Rubin. I would not include Dave Rubin in that group of subjects if it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Brooks calls him stupid several times throughout the book. The obsession with the men and not their ideas makes the book come off as, frankly, quite strange, rather petty, and renders whatever argument Mr. Brooks was trying to get off the ground completely void of any momentum or possible way forward. 

It was with a curious mind that I opened this book. I saw the subtitle: “A Cosmopolitan Answer to the New Right” and was further intrigued. I am very familiar with both sides of the political spectrum and was excited to see what an avowed Socialist had to say to the most famous intellectuals in the world today. Even when I saw Mr. Brooks’ thesis about the Rights tendency to naturalize and mythologize rather than to historicize power structures, I held firm my faith that despite the rather academic sounding thesis, he could still pull something off. However, when I saw he devoted a small chunk of the first chapter going over a meaningless and worthless moment of awkward silence that a political pundit named Dave Rubin once had on Joe Rogan’s podcast, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor as my faith in this book being anything more than propaganda flew out my fifth story window, never to return again. 

To describe such a choice for a first time author-the choice of centering one’s book around elementary school bullying-only one word will suffice: bizarre. It is such a bizarre thing to include in one’s book, let alone to choose as a theme. To opine about how stupid you think another internet talk show host is is such a petty decision, so below any standard a man should have for himself, let alone a book he wants other people to read, it felt like I was reading a valley girl’s diary entry on how Becky talked to Chad in front of her.

AND HE DOES IT MORE THAN ONCE IN THE BOOK. Eight pages in the first chapter, and roughly two pages in the fourth chapter account for roughly ten pages in this tiny book that are committed to trashing merely one of these people who Mr. Brooks is supposed to be rebutting, debating,  

In hindsight, my biggest mistake coming into reading this thing was taking it seriously. I say that because Mr. Brooks never once affords these men’s ideas even a glimpse, but rather talks about either things they have said on Youtube, or his own personal opinions about how distasteful their politics are. This may seem like a small distinction because sometimes the things we say are the things we believe, but not always. 

In reality, the difference between judging someone based off of a tweet(which they may not entirely believe), or judging them by what they tell you they believe is the difference between engaging in desperate resentment or genuine curiosity. Typically I would either praise an argument as sound or point out my issues with said argument, but in this book there truly is no argument made. An argument was stated by the author. There are many things said in this book, but there are hardly any ideas that ever end up being fleshed out or expanded upon. I’ll share the clearest example in which Mr. Brooks says some rules from Jordan Peterson’s book Twelve Rules for Life are good, but some are bad: 

“The exceptions are Rule 5, ‘Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them,’ which has an authoritarian ring to it, and most especially Rule 6, which is a strong example of Peterson allowing his right-leaning politics to bleed into his life advice, and which simply states: ‘Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.’”

Again, this is not argumentation. This is not even rhetorical in any way. Mr. Brooks basically just says, “Rule 5 is bad because it sounds right-wing, and Rule 6 is bad because it carries with it right-wing connotations”. That’s it. The book is littered with lazy, half baked criticisms that lead me to believe he wrote this book for people who would nod in bovine agreement. I was so baffled by the scatterbrained nature of the book, that I actually forgot what he was supposed to be giving his reader. Ahh, yes. A Cosmopolitan Answer of some sort.

That never comes.

Instead, Mr. Brooks opens chapter two with calling Dr. Jordan Peterson “an ignorant charlatan”. Well, then he must not be a very good charlatan, huh. Is that a charlatan who is missing some key facts, thus cannot pull off his con? Or is that a snake oil salesman that in his heart means well, but is just ignorant to the fact that he’s selling bunk products? This use of clunky language, unfortunately for me and anyone else who read this thing, proves to be par for the course. In a beautiful instance of irony Mr. Brooks refers to the ire of his scorned heart, Dave Rubin, and writes, “Dave Rubin’s dumb as a rock”. Now I would be hard pressed to even accept that syntax in purely colloquial speech, let alone a written piece, but in someone’s first attempt at publishing a book? That I cannot accept. 

Dave Rubin is as dumb as a rock. Yes, and Mr. Brooks is smart as one. 

In short, the author does not engage with any of his ideological counterparts ideas. The book is so superficial I cannot justify sharing an excerpt for criticism. Because, again, there is nothing to analyze. He just either talks about the IDW’s generally, scraping so surface thin that the entire tract reads like, again, gossip, or he talks about things they’ve said in the past and attacks them for not being sufficiently socialist, moral, or some combination of the two.

Oh, yeah… 

Mr. Brooks also makes the strange choice to sprinkle in Leftist talking points randomly throughout every chapter. Right when he says he is going to engage with one of these men’s ideas, he just calls them dumb or appalling and proceeds to talk about how Socialists beliefs make him a better person than them (I’m not joking. Chapter 4, pg. 131). This book would have made much more sense and would have been completely and utterly immune to all my criticism if he would have taken the following steps.

A. Came right out and said, “I wrote this book for people that already agree with me and believe in my talking points as Truth”

B. Chose the subtitle of his book to be, “Why the Intellectual Dark Web is dumb and Socialism is Good”

And yet, despite being void of any substance, despite being replete with childish and sporadic writing style, the worst aspect of all came in the final chapter of this tiny one hundred and sixty four page book. 

In yet another twist of delicious irony, Mr. Brooks offers his answer to the “New Right”. His answer to the young men who have flocked to the likes of Jordan B. Peterson, the young men who have found someone offering them meaning and responsibility in an increasingly meaningless world, the young men who have become disciples of a man whose entire project could be labeled as a pop-culture/psychological Christian revival is: International Materialism.

Let that sink in for a moment, folks….

Yeah, just let that one sink deep. Get a nice deep stretch in there….

International Materialism.

The man whose far and away most popular Youtube lectures are “The Psychological Significance of the Bible” can be usurped by, and I am now quoting, “An Internationalist-socialist synthesis that is all about globalist and materialist politics”. Have you ever heard something more heartless and bureaucratic in your life? Why would anyone think Soviet era language on the merits of Socialism would win back the hearts and minds of those who have seemingly just found Jesus on Youtube? At the feet of a man who expounds upon Soviet evil, no less! Mr. Brooks shortly thereafter, for good measure of course, again calls for “a material analysis”. Keep in mind my reaction is not meant to lambast the legitimacy or lack thereof of socialism, but to ultimately illustrate the utter lack of careful study this author had done on both his targets of scorn(the IDW) and his targets for salvation( young white men). 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the result of someone telling you they engage with ideas when what they really engage with is surface level observations steeped in a choppy, poorly adapted academic style. You get something that looks like it was written by a man who gossips about politics all day. You get an author whose payoff is a dud and who would have been much better off staying in the gym working on style, because what we have here is a man stepping out to his first pro fight who never even learned how to throw a healthy jab.

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