James Patterson raises his fists in celebration after accepting the Back the Blue Award at the 2023 FOX Nation Patriot Awards on Nov. 16 in Nashville, Tennessee.

James Patterson Proudly Accepts Copaganda Honor at Fox Nation “Patriot Awards”

James Patterson spent much of 2023 complaining that his book Walk the Blue Line wasn’t getting enough media attention, but finally someone offered this bestselling author the recognition he thinks he deserves. Any guesses? Yep, it was Fox News.

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Patterson was the proud recipient of the Back the Blue Award at the Fox Nation Patriot Awards ceremony, which I’m sorry to confirm is a thing. Fox bills the event as a celebration of “everyday heroes,” such as veterans, emergency responders, and (checks notes) one of the world’s wealthiest writers. Yep, just your average ordinary Americans!

But Patterson seemed right at home on a night that also honored Moms for Liberty for its work promoting censorship and making the lives of LGBTQ kids as hellish as possible. He earned the questionable honor for co-writing Walk the Blue Line, a collection of carefully curated stories told to him by police officers about their experiences protecting, serving, etc.

Complete with marketing materials that could have been drafted by the PR department of the Fraternal Order of Police, it looks like pretty lackluster copaganda—a genre of media depicting law enforcement in an uncritical or positive way, boosting their image as heroes, countering inconvenient facts about police misconduct, and often perpetuating racial stereotypes and myths about crime.

A lot of copaganda isn’t necessarily intentional; sometimes a network exec just wants to make some easy money off a gritty but wholesome police procedural that will last for 17-odd seasons and doesn’t even mean to help undermine anyone’s civil rights. But while accepting his gaudy American flag-adorned thing from Fox, Patterson made it clear he knew exactly what he was doing.

“I am humbled to be here representing half a million police officers who protect our sorry butts,” he said. “What I’ve heard from officers over and over is thanks for telling our side of the story.” In an interview clip shown during the broadcast, Patterson explained that his goal in writing the book was to “get to the truth … help the police.” It sure sounds like he set out to directly repudiate calls for criminal justice reform, and “the thin blue line,” a symbol of the Blue Lives Matter movement, is right there in the title.

On stage, Patterson took the opportunity to casually repeat several myths about policing, such as that “every call can be a matter of life and death.” Even though more cops have died from COVID-19 than from violence in recent years, law enforcement commonly uses the risky nature of the job as a justification for the use of force.

“Are police perfect? No. But who is?” Patterson said, seeming to dismiss an epidemic of police violence as just some minor mistakes. “We need to back our men and women in blue. If we don’t, we could end up with a country of cities overrun by criminals, and it’s kind of happening already.” It sounds like he’s a regular Fox News viewer already!

And perhaps his acceptance speech’s worst line: “Bad guys, you do the crime, you do the time.” As a prolific crime novelist, Patterson has probably done a lot of research on the criminal justice system, and yet he stills holds a simplistic and misguided view of it as a place where justice reliably happens.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a James Patterson book, I’m sorry, but I hope this ruins it for you. If it’s any consolation, he probably didn’t even write those books himself.

(featured image: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

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Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind (she/her) is a contributing writer covering politics and news and has two decades of experience in local news reporting, freelance writing, and nonfiction editing. Her hobbies and special interests include hiking, dancing in the kitchen, trying to raise empathetic teen boys, and keeping plants alive. Find her on Mastodon at @erikalyn.newsie.social.