The Murdochian part of these shows is that you keep getting urged to take the side of law enforcement. Watching a parade of abusive drunks, rambling speed freaks, and dangerously irresponsible joy-riding teens, you can't help but feel more than a twinge of sympathy for officers who have to put up with this crap on a daily basis. But--and here's where Murdoch's politics sneak up on you--Fox isn't content with that twinge of sympathy. No, they want your uncritical empathy: Anything the police do is justified. In the face of such apparently rampant lawlessness, extreme measures are clearly demanded. Fox craves riots and bloodshed (without them, there's no show), but even more it craves the authority to put them down. You get your fill of blood and guts, and then the moral whacks you on the head: Keep your hands inside the ride at all times and obey the law.
Ultimately, though, these shows don't universally succeed in softening the audience for the iron fist. Millions watch these shows, but how many turn them off with their faith in God, country, and the local constabulary secure? How many end the hour surging with an adrenaline rush for annihilation? Are audiences newly wary after witnessing how insistently the channel prods you to love law and order? Too hung up on moral instruction to be truly carnivalesque, Fox shockumentaries stamp on your fun with such blunt determination that (I'd like to think) they produce their own resistance.
We will, we will shock you! The enterprising reporters of the "news" magazine Fox Files tease you with mayhem and punish you with law and order.
But maybe not. Maybe we all turn our minds off when watching these shows and don't take in what they're striving so hard to sell us. In which case let's bring this out into the open. Here's hoping that Michael Moore, never one for a stiletto when a sledgehammer will do, devotes an episode of his new Bravo show to a lefty take on this topic. I've even got the perfect title: When Cops Attack.