'Thomas Jefferson & the Tripoli Pirates' - Just how bad can the Fox News version of my research be?

Bad. So Bad, that the only way I got through reading the book was to live tweet it.


  1. Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts of 'Fox & Friends' program on Fox News and Don Yaeger, a sports journalist, decided to write a book about the first "great confrontation between the US and militant Islamic States," aka the US-Tripoli war of 1801-4. Thus, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House.
  2. For all I love early-American history, I am not a fan of Thomas Jefferson (I tend to be pro-Adams) and as my Twitter handle would show, a big fan of the Barbary States. (Background: Barbary is the historical name of the four North African states, Ottoman Algiers, Tunis & Tripoli, and the kingdom of Morocco used to designate a period from roughly 1517 until 1830 when the corsairs operated.) So this book kept catching my attention in bookstores & online.
  3. I was curious. Not the way you (or maybe just me) get excited about a new academic monograph, but the way you really want to know what happened at a horrific car crash.
  4. But I was sure as hell not going to spend money on the book. Which is when I discovered I have horrible, enabling friends who want to watch the world burn (I mean you, BJ.) I was subsequently asked to review it for a journal. Totally sane idea, right?
  5. My background: I finished my PhD on Barbary & the British Royal Navy last year, & have been working on relations between the Barbary States and the 'West' for about a decade (including US-Barbary relations). Let's say I'm rather familiar with the topic & the source material.
  6. Just looking at the bibliography & the publishers blurb raised 3 initial concerns:
  7. 1. Basically no modern scholarship - only two books published in last ten years & vast majority pre-date 1985.
  8. 2. Nothing at all on Barbary itself or the region's dealing with other nations - sources are exclusively American or about America.
  9. 3. Publisher's blurb harps on the idea of America's first fight against Islamic Terrorism. Oh joy.
  10. However, the sources, both primary & secondary, are the usual cast of characters I would expect if you were going to write about the US-Tripoli war, so maybe there is hope.
  11. (There isn't.)
  12. So this is how I spent my Valentine's Day weekend: documenting the #foxdoesbarbary saga...
  13. Not just in the Marine Corps hymn, it's the second line.
  14. If you now have "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli" stuck in your head, I sympathize.
  15. This is really basic 101 type stuff here. COME ON. My mother, a Business professor who's only familiarity with this topic is having to proofread my dissertation, knows this. You can check this crap on wikipedia.
  16. Why did I agree to this again?