The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Three Causes of Populism, and One Solution: Positive Nationalism

Yascha Mounk recently spoke as part of the Rotman School of Management’s #shiftdisturbers series. Drawing from his book The People vs. Democracy, his fact-packed talk explored the populist phenomenon, with examples from around the world: how it gains power, how it fails people, and the three alarmingly familiar similarities all populist uprisings share.

1. A stagnation of living standards. From the mid- to late-twentieth century, peoples’ standards of living improved drastically—all while living under a democracy. But in the past dew decades, all that has changed: the cost of living is soaring, while wages have stayed relatively the same. This has led many to look to their government to do something—and, when faced with inaction, wonder if there’s a better alternative to the democratic status quo. 
2. A decline of ethnic homogeneity. Democracy has always flourished in developed countries where the population is predominantly white. With increases in rights and immigration, we are seeing that balance shift: and it’s led to anger amongst people who are unwilling to accept others as fellow citizens, and who see an increase in diversity as a cause of their own struggles. Many populist voices—either covertly or overtly—offer solutions to this perceived problem, like stricter immigration policies. 
3. The rise of the internet. Before, we got our news from certified, accountable outlets. And the places we talked politics—at the office, at the dinner table—were mixed and balanced, with a variety of opinions and viewpoints. But now, anyone, anywhere, can share political news—which may or may not be accurate—which is disseminated to countless eyes at the click of a button. And, the places we talk politics are no longer varied, leading us to congregate amongst ourselves online, in an echo chamber of our own perspectives. Because of this increased and highly-biased communication, it’s easy for misinformation and populist support to spread. 
Mounk shared facts, anecdotes, and a few jokes to make his points, offering a talk that was incredibly informative, urgent, and ultimately hopeful. He left us with a few ideas on how to correct course: like doing everything possible to prevent a populist election—because once they’re in, they’re in for a long time. And, practicing a new, inclusive, progressive kind of nationalism: one that includes everyone, one that is taught early on, and one that will inspire more diverse, empathetic, and compassionate citizens. 


To learn more about booking Yascha Mounk for a speaking event, contact The Lavin Agency. href=”https:>

“America is Not a Democracy,” says Harvard professor Yascha Mounk in His Upcoming Book. But It’s Not Too Late to Change.

Democracy is in decline in the West, especially among young people. They don’t trust their politicians and they don’t see themselves reflected in policy. Harvard professor Yascha Mounk’s new book The People vs. Democracy (recently excerpted in The Atlantic) explores this alarming phenomenon—and according to a glowing Kirkus review, proposes “provocative…optimistic…reasonable remedies,” to combat it.

As a speaker, Mounk’s plain, captivating language illuminates the very real ways that liberal democracy is being threatened every day. He goes beyond the basic description of populism—masses mobilized against a perceived elite—to describe both how we arrived at the Trump administration, and where we can go from here.


His keynotes are timely, necessary, important; they probe at the knot of economics, ethnicity, technology, insecurity, and media that brought us to this point, and demonstrate exactly how we can fix it: by asking questions, taking nothing for granted, and standing up for what’s right.


Why Young Americans Are Questioning Democracy


The People vs. Democracy comes out on March 5th. To book Yascha Mounk, or another keynote speaker on U.S. and Global Politics, contact The Lavin Agency.  

Fighting Fake Stories with Real Ones: Lavin Signs David Rohde, Pulitzer Prize–Winner and News Director of NewYorker.com

David Rohde has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. But tracking the polarization and propaganda of Trump’s presidency for NewYorker.com has been one of the toughest challenges of his career. On stage, he explains why “original, ethical, fact-based reporting” is more vital than ever.

David Rohde: Online News Director, NewYorker.com

Rohde works at the crossroads of contemporary politics. Since May 2017, as its Online News Director, he’s expanded The New Yorker’s online coverage of the White House — not to keep up with every claim or distortion, he says, but to preserve “the heart of journalism.” And that’s clear-eyed, daily investigations into the broad patterns of the administration. Under his watch, NewYorker.com has remained a bastion of fact-checked reporting in an era of ‘fake news.’ And it’s published stories that not only unseated White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, but revealed a long-standing criminal investigation of Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr.


David Rohde: Award-Winning Foreign Correspondent


Rohde has worked at ABC News, The Christian Science MonitorReuters, The Atlantic, and The New York Times — often abroad, in the field, experiencing the dangers of political extremism as a foreign correspondent. His investigations in Bosnia — his discovery of the mass graves of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, specifically, recorded in his book Endgame (called “essential” by The Guardian) — earned him the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His next Pulitzer came from covering Afghanistan and Pakistan at The New York Times. In both Bosnia and Afghanistan, Rohde was held captive by Serbs and the Taliban, respectively — and both times, threatened with execution.

David Rohde

David Rohde

David Rohde: Unforgettable Keynote Speaker


Paradoxically, this should make covering Trump at NewYorker.com relatively easy. But so far, it’s been one of the most unsettling experiences of his career. That’s because there are major parallels, Rohde notes, between US political culture and the dynamics that sparked civil wars he covered abroad. Widely agreed-upon facts are becoming ever more elusive. Alternate realities have emerged across seemingly irreparable divides. 


In his keynotes, Rohde describes how principled reporting — a free press that stands up to power — is our best bulwark against authoritarianism. He argues that journalists cannot cut corners; news organizations must hold themselves to a higher standard than the current administration, since a ruthless pursuit of no-holds-barred political advantage will only divide and confuse. It can stoke fear to such an extent that longstanding democratic norms can, and will, erode. We must respond to our polarized political perspectives with facts, he argues, and prevent what he witnessed overseas emerging here at home. 

Books by David Rohde

Books by David Rohde

The Lavin Agency is a speakers bureau representing some of the brightest minds in politics. From journalists to broadcasters, editors to academics, every thinker we represent has something unique and vital to say about our fraught moment. For more information on college speakers like David Rohde — luminaries like Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nicholas Thompson, Emily Bazelon, Yascha Mounk, or George Packer — contact The Lavin Agency today.

Letters from the Big Top: Matt Taibbi’s New Book, Insane Clown President

In Insane Clown President, author and Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi delivers a scathing record of the 2016 presidential election, both a postmortem and vital look ahead as the new guard moves in. 

Previously, Taibbi turned his unforgiving eye on the American wealth gap in The Divide (2014), which The New York Times deemed “impossible to put down.” In Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus, Taibbi accounts for Trump’s exploits, reveals how the pillars of democracy became compromised, and what part the media played in their collapse.  


Comprising timely reports from Taibbi’s travels following both the politicians and voters of the 2016 election, Insane Clown President illuminates not just what brought us to where we are now, but who we can be moving forward in the years to come.  


“The media and politicians had spent so much time with each other that they lost touch with regular people, and Trump capitalized on that. He made us in the media villains, representative of this out of touch, ivory tower political culture,” Taibbi recently told CBC News Wendy Mesley.


In an excerpt from the book, Taibbi remarks “…when you actually think about it, it's not funny. Given what's at stake, it's more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we’re all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we’ll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end.” 


Insane Clown President is available now. Here’s the description from the publisher, Spiegel & Grau:


From the thwarted Bernie Sanders insurgency to the aimless Hillary Clinton campaign, across the flailing media coverage and the trampled legacy of Obama, this is the story of ordinary voters forced to bear witness to the whole charade. At the centre of it all, “a bumbling train wreck of a candidate who belched and preened his way past a historically weak field” who, improbably, has taken control of the world’s most powerful nation.


In this groundbreaking battery of dispatches from the heartland of America, Matt Taibbi tells the full story of the Trump phenomenon, from its tragi-comic beginnings to the apocalyptic election. Full of sharp, on-the-ground reporting and gallows humour, his incisive analysis goes beyond the bizarre and disturbing election to tell a wider story of the apparent collapse of American democracy. Taibbi saw the essential themes right from the start: the power of spectacle over truth; the end of a shared reality on the left and right; the nihilistic rebellion of the white working class; the death of the political establishment; and the emergence of a new, explicit form of white nationalism.


This is essential and hilarious reading that explores how the new America understands itself, and about the future of the world just beyond the horizon. 


Interested in booking Matt Taibbi to speak at your next event? Contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

Trump Won. What’s Next? Lavin Speakers Help Us Understand the Election

Donald Trump has led the Republican Party to unexpected success—baffling pollsters across the world and driving people of all political persuasions to seek out expert opinion. What does a Trump victory mean for international relations and global health? How will it alter world and domestic economies? What will it mean for immigration, women’s health, or the environment?

You deserve informed opinion. So, for your next keynote or conference, invite one of Lavin’s exclusive speakers—political analysts, journalists, comedians, cultural critics, and authors—to help your team navigate turbulent economic change and adapt to radical political transformation. Below, we’ve gathered writing from George Packer, James Fallows, Wajahat Ali, Negin Farsad, and John Ibbitson in the immediate aftermath of this week’s historical event.


“We live as tribes”: George Packer in The New Yorker and The New York Times 


As one of our best journalists, George Packer offers up indispensible and often paradigmatic takes on American politics. It’s no wonder, then, that The New York Times has listed his National Book Award-winning and bestselling treatise The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America as a key book you need to read to understand Trump’s win. “It’s possible that the book that best explains the American that elected Donald J. Trump appeared more than three years ago,” writes The Times. “Packer took a wide-angled look at this country’s institutions and mores and was appalled by what he found.”


In a similar vein, last month The New Yorker published Packer’s essay “Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt.” This long-form article outlines, with Packer’s signature style, how the Democratic party lost the faith and endorsement of the white working class (and how the Republicans “exploited it”). A must-read for anyone seeking to comprehend the political and cultural forces making America what it is. Packer writes:

  • george packer


More and more, we live as tribes. It’s easier and more satisfying to hunker down with your cohort on social media than to take up Obama’s challenge and get in someone else’s head. What’s striking is the widespread feeling that liberal values are no longer even valuable—a feeling shared by many people who think of themselves as liberals.


“Entertainment is always going to be more interesting than news”: James Fallows on NPR 


Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows has followed this campaign like few other journalists. With his “Daily Trump” blog, which recorded the myriad ways Trump broke with all convention, to his American Futures project, in which he toured small towns and cities across the country to report on our renaissance of innovation, Fallows is a reliable pulse-point for informed opinion, nation-wide. Yesterday, he took to NPR’s Fresh Air to speak with Terry Gross on “How Trump Broke Campaign Norms But Still Won the Election.”  Throughout the forty-minute interview, Fallows reflects on the many contradictions—things are terrible nationally, but things are getting much better locally!—he learned from talking to ordinary Americans. And, of course, he spoke on the unique nature of this election, and how it stumped even the most informed pollsters:

  • james fallows

“All of the normal indicators by which we have some sense of how things are going to go—the exit polls and the tracking polls and the demographic analysis and all those things—none of those seem to give a correct event … So I think everybody learned just an operational sense that we were operating in the dark in terms of knowledge of modern elections. And on the larger cultural sense, the fact that the American electorate chose—through the Electoral College, apparently not through the popular plurality—somebody who was unlike anybody else who had reached this point in political consideration?  That also will give us things to learn about our government, our people, our system and things we’ll be talking about for quite awhile.”


None of us are going anywhere—yet”: Wajahat Ali in The New York Times and The Huffington Post


Playwright, journalist, and social entrepreneurship incubator Wajahat Ali turned to two outlets in the early hours after our stunning election results. The first was with The New York Times, for which he offered crucial insight into what it feels like to live as a “Muslim in Trump’s America.” The short article, which transforms into a letter addressed to the hypothetical Trump supporter, is a graceful and poignant appeal to empathy and collaboration. “Instead of being despondent,” Ali writes, “I am willing myself to be more passionate, energized and empowered for the sake of my children. That’s the one relief and cause of joy. We’re all still here. And none of us are going anywhere—yet.”


And, in this Huffington Post video, he again appeals to the better angels of our shared nature and shared values in order to rebuild in the wake of this divisive election. Watch Ali offer up a Muslim-American perspective on where we stand, and where we can go from here. 


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“I’ve been sobbing all morning … and that’s the punch line!”: Negin Farsad on CBC Radio Q


The most insightful reactions don’t necessarily have to come from seasoned political correspondents. As is the case with Negin Farsad, comedy offers a different but no less important lens through which we can come to understand Trump’s rise to power. Talking with CBC’s Radio Q (and with Canadian comedians Tom Green and Mark Critch), the author of the recent book How to Make White People Laugh and the acclaimed documentary The Muslims Are Coming! had a less-than-comedic response to the shift in the States—but this merely underscores how her comedy is also the vehicle for serious and timely messages (and how comedy just might be the most effective way to deliver them).


Dubbed a “social-justice comedian,” Farsad works to dispel Islamophobia (and other forms of hatred and intolerance) with laughter. And as one of the few Iranian-American Muslim females to work in comedy and film, she’s an irreplaceable voice in today’s cultural landscape.

  • negin farsad


“It’s good to be Canadian”: John Ibbitson in The Globe and Mail


Moving to Canada, Globe and Mail senior political correspondent John Ibbitson has already released three pieces for the newspaper: a video election postmortem, in which he admits that “It’s good to be Canadian” in light of the White House shuffle, and two articles: “Although Trump won the election, fears of an American decline are premature” and “Woe to us who belittled the clout of the white working class.” Each piece takes apart what we thought we knew about the political status quo, and tries to reimagine how the US and world community will move forward with such a drastic change. He writes:


“American elections are long nights. As the results rolled in Tuesday, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared to have a path to victory, but early Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump emerged the victor. The polarization of American politics may never have been this stark, with Republicans running up big gains in rural and blue-collar counties in battleground states, even as the Democrats did well in the cities. But with Mr. Trump winning, we need to remember something biggerAmerica is once again proving that it is a dynamic, contradictory, slightly crazy at times and perpetually surprising republic.”

Understanding how Canada and the United States will resume its close-knit relationship—over trade, cultural values, international agreements, and more—is of utmost important to Canadian companies and policy-makers. John Ibbitson is a voice Canadians turn to for comprehending the big picture; as former Washington bureau chief, his knowledge of US-Canadian relations is of vital import. Watch Ibbitson for more in the embedded video below:


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To book keynote speakers George Packer, James Fallows, Wajahat Ali, Negin Farsad, or John Ibbitson for your next conference, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive representation.

When Donald Meets Hillary: James Fallows’ Pre-Debate Atlantic Cover Story


“This presidential debate will be the most extreme contrast that we’ve ever had,” says Atlantic columnist James Fallows. “Right brain versus left brain, gut versus any part of the brain at all, instinct versus experience, and of course, at the most primal level, woman versus man.” The stage is set, and on the evening of September 26, the curtain rises: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will square off in the first of three nationally televised Presidential debates that may decide the future of the nation. In The Atlantic’s October cover story, Fallows reflects on the impact of Presidential debates past—from Kennedy-Nixon in ’60, to Bush-Gore in ’00—and tells us what to expect from this year’s edition.


Accompanying the cover story is a five-minute video narrated by Fallows, and if it doesn’t get you excited about the debates, nothing will. “The best way to judge presidential debates is just to turn the sound off,” Fallows says in the clip. “There’s a long, long saga of the images from debates mattering more than anything else,” he continues, citing 1960, when John F. Kennedy looked suave and composed, and Richard Nixon, by contrast, was sweaty and disheveled and “looked like hell.” We all know the outcome of that one.


But it may not come down to appearances alone. Up to this point, says Fallows, “Donald Trump’s entire approach to debates has been not simply that I win, but that I humiliate you.” However, he’s yet to face Clinton, a seasoned debater “who, arguably, is at her best when being attacked by men.”

  • fallows trumpclinton


Fallows is also the author of the “Trump Time Capsule” column, a daily chronicle of the unorthodox Republican’s words and actions leading up to the election. This marks his fifth consecutive Atlantic pre-debate cover story. One of the most experienced political writers in America, he has written for the magazine for nearly forty years, following a stint as the youngest Presidential chief speechwriter in American history.


“The presidential debates are the one chance that people get to see in real time, unscripted, the two candidates face-to-face, and you never really know what’s going to happen. This year in particular, it’s hard to imagine how this debate will not really matter.”


To have James Fallows give a keynote at your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive representative for speaking engagements.

Molly Crabapple and Jay Z Team Up in New NYT “War on Drugs” Video

Molly Crabapple, stunning visual artist and author of Drawing Blood, has illustrated a short film for Jay Z, and it’s on the front page of The New York Times’ website. It’s called “A History of the War on Drugs,” and in it, Jay and Crabapple decry the policies brought about by the war on drugs, beginning with the Nixon administration and leading all the way up to modern policing and incarceration. Here’s what the Times says about it:


This short film, narrated by Jay Z (Shawn Carter) and featuring the artwork of Molly Crabapple, is part history lesson about the war on drugs and part vision statement. As Ms. Crabapple’s haunting images flash by, the film takes us from the Nixon administration and the Rockefeller drug laws—the draconian 1973 statutes enacted in New York that exploded the state’s prison population and ushered in a period of similar sentencing schemes for other states—through the extraordinary growth in our nation’s prison population to the emerging aboveground marijuana market of today. We learn how African-Americans can make up around 13 percent of the United States population—yet 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations, even though they use and sell drugs at the same rate as whites.


But the message comes across much more vividly accompanied by Crabapple’s time-lapse drawings and Jay’s impassioned narration. See for yourself below.

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To book Molly Crabapple, visual artist and author of Drawing Blood, as a keynote speaker on art and activism, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.