Skip to Content
Meet the author

Piracy and terror

A history of piracy in America and a look at post-9/11 changes in the media landscape.
August 22, 2018

For Eric Jay Dolin, PhD ’95, finding the topic for his latest book was easy—he talked to his kids. “‘Pirates are cool,’ they said,” Dolin recounts wryly. “‘Write about pirates.’”

So he took their advice, focusing on the “Golden Age” of piracy in America from the late 1600s through the early 1700s in Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates (W.W. Norton, 2018).

Despite being what Dolin calls “an omnipresent nefarious force upon the seas,” pirates were for many years welcome in the colonies and helped establish the economies of the New World. “One person’s thief is another’s savior,” he says. “Boston, New York, Charleston, Port Royal—all the major cities were pirate nests.”

Dolin had no prior knowledge of pirates, other than what he’d seen in Pirates of the Caribbean, but the stories of these desperate and violent men drew him in. “I could have spent 20 years researching,” he says.

Pirates never knew who they were going to meet or what weather they would encounter. Most didn’t even know how to swim. “I’m floored by the guts of these men,” says Dolin. “Can you imagine getting into a hundred-foot-long ship and going halfway around the world?” By weaving the sagas of individuals into his in-depth research, he creates a gripping historical narrative. “I’m not a historian,” he says. “I’m a storyteller.”

 

Lisa Parks, a professor of comparative media studies, brings a different kind of storytelling to her clear and critical examination of changes in the media landscape after 9/11 in her latest book, Rethinking Media Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2018).

A global media scholar, Parks outlines the many ways in which the United States sought to regain and re-solidify its media, military, and cultural hegemony. She focuses on the “vertical field,” a term she uses to encompass all forms of communication, from internet and radio waves to drones and satellites—and even, in her view, bombs. Media, she says, is a dynamic process used to make ideas and concepts intelligible to others.

Parks begins with the premise that like Pearl Harbor or Sputnik, 9/11 precipitated a massive realignment of national culture and priorities. Then she focuses on how cable news, satellite imagery, airport security, and drone warfare have been used by the “media-industrial complex” since 9/11 to engineer cultural and physical transformations. She details the push for justification of the war in Iraq as an example.

Although Parks is quick to admit that her analysis is mainly academic—and full of media studies jargon—she hopes it will encourage people to think of media not as a series of individual works but as an ever-changing cultural process.

 

Recent books from the MIT community

The Mobile Workshop: The Tsetse Fly and African Knowledge Production
By Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, associate professor of Science, Technology, and Society
MIT Press, 2018, $37


Paris and the Cliché of History: The City and Photographs, 1860–1970
By Catherine E. Clark, associate professor of French studies
Oxford University Press, 2018, $74


Health Informatics on FHIR: How HL7’s New API Is Transforming Healthcare
By Mark L. Braunstein ’69
Springer, 2018, $69.66


Peer Coaching at Work: Principles and Practices
By Kathy E. Kram ’72, SM ’73, Polly Parker, Douglas T. Hall, and Ilene C. Wasserman
Stanford University Press, 2018, $27.95


Extracting Innovations: Mining, Energy, and Technological Change in the Digital Age
By Robert K. Perrons, SM ’97, Saleem H. Ali, PhD ’01, Martin J. Clifford, and Tim A. Grice
CRC Press, 2018, $149.95



Send book news to
MITNews@technologyreview.com or
MIT News
1 Main Street, 13th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142

Keep Reading

Most Popular

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

pig kidney transplant surgery
pig kidney transplant surgery

Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient

The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.