exclusives | February 18, 2016

Lavin Weekly #26: Packer, Hannah-Jones, Rushkoff, & Steffen

1. George Packer Tracks the Rightward March in The New Yorker

“The biggest story of the past fifty years in American politics has been the ascendancy of the right, and it’s a story of apostasy. At each stage of the conservative movement’s long march to power, crucial aid was provided by heretics from the left.” Or so George Packer, bestselling and National Book Award-winning author, writes in “Turned Around” for The New Yorker—an article that examines the storied, confessional history of leftists drifting to the right. Packer shows how crossing political boundaries is serious business, often akin to losing—or finding—religion, family, an entire sense of being. But this is also a story of a bygone America. As Packer writes, “The denunciations and warnings from today’s ex-leftists seem wildly exaggerated: the less real power the left has in American life, the more dire its image on the right grows.” In the era of Cruz, Coulter, O’Reilly, and Trump, Packer argues, “we’re due for a new crop of writers to start recording their disillusionment—this time with the right.”

2. Nikole Hannah-Jones Wins a George Polk Award in Journalism

Congratulations are in order for Nikole Hannah-Jones. This week the New York Times Magazine staff writer and NABJ “Journalist of the Year” received a 2015 George Polk Award in Journalism for radio reporting. The awarded broadcast, “The Problem We All Live With,” aired in July in two parts on This American Life, and covers Hannah-Jones’s investigation into Normandy School District, situated on the border of Ferguson, Missouri (a jurisdiction that includes Michael Brown’s high school). The broadcast is an excellent example of Hannah-Jones’s fine reporting skills, and her ongoing coverage of the return of racially segregated schools in the decades since the historic Brown v. Board of Education. Despite the considerable evidence that integrated schools improve the lives of the most vulnerable students, white flight and court orders have created ‘apartheid schools’ across both the south and north of the United States, forcing white and non-white students apart—and sabotaging the lives of innumerable children. (Congratulations, too, to Ta-Nehisi Coates—he received an award for commentary for his “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic).

3. Douglas Rushkoff Questions Twitter’s Wall Street Value for The Atlantic

To most people, Twitter is anything but a failure—it’s making over $500 million in revenue per quarter. But that’s how it’s been portrayed by Wall Street, which has dropped the social giant’s stock by about 50 percent. How can this be? To media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff, writing for The Atlantic, it’s because “the core command of the highly accelerated digital economy” is to “chase growth above all else.” That means Twitter qua Twitter just isn’t sufficient: if it wants to play by Wall Street’s rules, it’s got to “pivot toward new potential growth areas, at the expense of the market it already has” (think ‘moments,’ live streaming ads, and other unfortunately user-unfriendly updates). These demands have meant that Twitter is losing its user base, however slowly. To Rushkoff, author of the upcoming Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, this scenario is an indication that we need to reboot how we do business and innovation in 2016 and beyond. “If Twitter were to value the sustainability of its enterprise over the growth prospect of its shares,” he argues, “it wouldn’t have to invest so much of its revenue in new, outlandish features, and would have a lot more to show in profit.”

4. Alex Steffen Imagines the Heroic Future on Kickstarter

Visionary author Alex Steffen—the mind behind WorldchangingCarbon Zero, and the forthcoming Planetary—has launched a Kickstarter fundraising drive for “The Heroic Future”: “a live documentary series about reimagining the world of tomorrow, in order to rebuild the world today.” We’ll leave the full description to Steffen, whose positive, optimistic take on planetary futurism has inspired countless people to envision a better world. “Each 90-minute show [for ‘The Heroic Future’] is centered around a talk, incorporating stage presentation, film and photography, visual design and motion graphics, sound, music and lighting to tell a powerful story of where we are, where we need to go, and the kind of stories that might guide us through the planetary crisis we face. It’s the best work I've ever done. The series will run three nights, September 20th, 21st and 22nd. Each of these performances will be presented in an intimate venue to a live audience in the Bay Area, and filmed and recorded for those who can’t be there in person. But whether you’re in the room, watching the videos or listening to the recordings, you’ll be part of creating something special and powerful: a new way of looking at the future.” Head to Steffen’s Kickstarter page to watch this project develop.

For more information on booking George Packer, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Douglas Rushkoff, or Alex Steffen for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.