Hot Snakes Media Continues to Exploit and Slander Amish Culture

What attracts men to evil acts is not the evil in them but the good that is there, seen under a false aspect and with a distorted perspective. The good seen from that angle is only the bait in the trap. When you reach out to take it, the trap is sprung and you are left with disgust, boredom – and hatred. […] When they try to cover the tedium of life by noise, excitement, and violence — the inevitable fruits of a life devoted to the love of values that do not exist — they become something more than boring: they become scourges of the world and of society. ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Two things stirred me out of my determination to ignore the so-called Amish reality shows that are being produced by Hot Snakes Media, led by Eric and Shannon Evangelista. First, I received a phone call from Kyle Turbos a producer at Hot Snakes Media, saying he was calling because his bosses, Shannon and Eric had received a book from me, thanking them (this was a downright lie, for I never did do such a thing). He asked to interview me for Amish Mafia. Huh? Doesn't anyone at Hot Snakes do their research? If they had, they wouldn't have had to dig very far to discover how I feel about their shows, and they would have known that I would say no to being on the show. Along with that no, I asked Kyle to give a message to his bosses. I said I know they are exploiting the Amish culture for their own gain, and they are also engaging in cultural slander at the same time. I said they should not be representing this as reality, when it isn't. And that they should be revealing to the general public that they are paying their novice actors for the show. He neither denied nor confirmed that they get paid. Instead he feigned confusion about what I was talking about. 

Needless to say, the conversation ended when I gave Kyle my message for Shannon and Eric.

I still thought that ignoring these shows was the best strategy. After all, controversy only promotes such a thing. And then the second thing happened.

Over the holidays, my son, Tim, started laughing about Amish Haunting, the newest show produced by Hot Snakes. This is when I realized that ignoring these shows was not the right thing to do. Tim knows better – this is his heritage. He knows fact from fiction. And he watches them, and thinks they're funny.

I thought if I am to write about these shows, it's important for me to know what I am talking about, and so I decided to watch clips of Amish Haunting. When I found this page, I read the headlines of the clips: "An Amish Girl Was Possessed by a Demon That Entered Her Home Through a Doll." "This Amish Man Becomes Possessed By the Spirit of a Blind Boy and Starts Spewing Soil On His Wife." "This Possessed Amish Boy Does Something You Won't Believe." (Just in case you're wondering, the mistakes and inconsistencies in capitalization of these headlines are not mine… seems Hot Snakes should hire someone competent to do their editing as well as their research.

I couldn't go beyond the second clip. My feelings about all that is wrong with these shows is enough to make me want to go and picket in front of the offices of the Hot Snakes Media. It makes me want to engage in whatever civil disobedience I can muster to make them stop.  But I know none of this will do any good. These people represent all that is wrong in our culture. Often the only way to hold someone accountable is the threat of a law suit. So the only thing keeping some people from doing wrong is the threat of a consequence they will feel themselves — the loss of money.

A law suit will not happen, and these producers know that. It is against the Amish religion to sue. They are taught to endure silently whatever others will do and say against them.

So, instead of a conscience guiding these producers to do what is right and good, they are capitalizing on the fact that they have no one holding them accountable. The sky is the limit as to what they can get away with.

I wrote about my experience of having my grandmother burn my doll when I was a child, because the doll had a face. Most girls in our community were allowed to have those dolls, but my paternal grandmother was extra strict. It was a traumatic experience, but it doesn't come close to resembling what this show is about.

So you see how the producers of these shows take one little grain of truth and they twist it up so that it comes out as grotesque and gruesome? They claim that these shows are based on stories that were passed down in the oral tradition. That gives them a lot of leeway — stories they don't have to site or prove.

Amish is not just a religion. They are a people, and a long-standing culture with deep traditions. God knows they have plenty of faults – I revealed some of these in my memoirs. But they do not deserve to have their way of life, their culture, and their religion exploited, distorted, mocked, and slandered. These producers are getting away with soiling whatever goodness that exists among the Amish.

I ask myself, What other culture in the world could be exploited and slandered without any consequences? 

And then I realize that perhaps the Amish have something to teach us with their silence. After all, they are not they ones who are exhibiting a lack of moral fiber. They are showing us what it means to live what they believe, even when it hurts.

If only we could live in their silence instead of engaging in all the noise of our culture. These shows actually reveal more about our culture than they do about the Amish.

49 thoughts on “Hot Snakes Media Continues to Exploit and Slander Amish Culture”

  1. Dianne H. Plourde

    This was an awesome post, in every way, every comment. I am new to your site … so appreciate this one above all so far. Thank you for your truthful heart.

  2. Thank you for helping me make sense of this. I have long struggled with the obvious truth that a vulnerable group is being exploited and will not retaliate in the face of such vulgar distortions of their image. It burns me up when I hear strangers chatting about these shows and accepting them as fact, or even when approached by relatives of my husband who see and believe these things. It has been a challenge to deal with the minor nuisance of the ignorance being spread by these shows. And isn’t “Hot Snakes” a perfect and true name for their company? Yet, when you say that what we see in the silence of the Amish is a belief lived out, it makes this easier to swallow. A living belief has to mean more than the evil that attempts to overshadow peace.

    1. Monica, that is well said, about a living belief.

      It is a huge nuisance to try to tell people that these shows are not true. Some people have a need to actually believe them… I just don’t understand.

      Thank you so much for your comments, Monica.

  3. Oh, Saloma, I so agree with you. I don’t watch those ‘reality’ shows but I have seen a couple of clips; whenever and wherever I can I refute their very premise. The people who write these shows know little or NOTHING about the Amish people and their faith. They must not have any idea how ludicrous their ideas are.

    I’m just sorry the young people – and most of them, obviously, are ex-Amish – are ignorant enough to buy into the exploitation of their heritage. The only reason I can think of is hatred and a total lack of understanding of where and what they came from.

    My husband said that when his brother, also ex-Amish, during an argument called him a ‘stupid Amishman’ he had to hit him: he knew his brother had called him the worst thing he could think of. :)

    It took me a long time to cherish my heritage; I finally came to realize that only a few people get to have been Amish.

    1. Elva, I used to want to change my childhood experiences, too. Aside from the idea that we cannot, I have come around to value what my past has taught me.

      As for the young former Amish people on the show… they were suckered into with the promise of money and fame. And once they have signed a contract, the producers are in charge. I don’t know about all of them, but at least some of them still have some respect for their heritage. I wish they would band together and refuse to play their parts.

      Thanks for your comments, Elva. So glad you are one of the few…

  4. I tried watching some of those shows and refuse to ever watch them again. The only one I may have watched twice was Vanilla Ice does renovations with the Amish. Didn’t watch more of that one either.
    They are so fake. Isn’t it amazing that after a couple of years of searching, they never (really) found BIGFOOT!!!!. Maybe they should get the Amish to find him – there’s an idea for a NEW SHOW!! Now I’m getting silly – but these shows are terrible “entertainment” – not worth my time. Sorry, but most of what is on TV no longer interests me, consequently, I watch very little. I wonder who their main viewers are?

    1. Kristine, I don’t really know who their main viewers are, but I can tell you have a met some people who really surprise me when they say they watch that garbage. I had someone recently tell me, “Oh but I learn so much about the Amish.” It did me no good to try to contradict her. She had her mind made up.

      Take good care, Kristine.

  5. Saloma

    I would love to sit down and talk with you! I was raised in a Amish home in Nappanee, IN. Love your books and blog. I just want to shout “amen” to what you said about the so called Amish reality shows. Like your son my husband and I can watch them and go how ridiculous. it’s not funny when you think of all the people that watch Amish Mafia and actually believe it is true. We only watched a few episodes. I have no desire to ever watch an Amish Haunting. Always look forward to your postings! Happy New Year!

    1. Marietta, I would love to visit with you as well. Since you grew up Amish, then you understand the distortions perfectly. And along with me, you likely find them just as exasperating.

      I’m so glad you enjoy my postings. I hope you will visit again.

      Happy New Year!

  6. I was thinking the same thing as previously mentioned about the name of the production company-Hot Snakes. Yes, snakes indeed.
    Ignorance in and of itself is frightening, but to combine it with greed…terrifying. I’m absolutely dumbfounded that anyone would watch this rubbish. Like I said, frightening. But what else is new? Twenty years ago, before all this “reality” business people were reading the National Enquirer. Chances are it wasn’t about the Amish, however.
    A couple of weeks back my husband and I decided to watch the newest “Noah” production. We had heard some negative things about it-how it didn’t follow the Bible. We thought we’d give it a try and form our own opinions. About a half hour into it we turned it off in disappointed disgust. It seems to me anything having to do with goodness is going to be a prime target for exploitation, distortion, and outright lies.
    I have always seen the Amish as decent people. I like doing business with them because I believe the large majority of them are honest. Their devotion to family and the care they provide to their elderly is exemplary. Their work ethic is amazing. Again, there will be those amongst the Amish that are dishonest or lazy or uncaring, but overall I think society in general holds the Amish in high regards. That is just my opinion.
    I recall seeing a program about the Nickel Mines shooting put out several years ago that put a favorable light on the Amish. Maybe too favorable, but closer to the truth than the demented stuff being shown now. I wonder if there are any Mennonite media companies that could step up and start producing honest, wholesome programming?

    1. Fran, I know… interesting that they chose that name, isn’t it?

      About ignorance. I don’t believe it’s that at all. I believe they are well aware of what the Amish are really about, but they don’t care. They care what makes them the most money, and they don’t mind being nortorious to get it. So, in my mind it’s worse than ignorance… it’s willful exploitation.

      Interesting correlation about the National Enquirer… very good. One difference… people soon figured out that those stories were a pack of lies. The people at Hot Snakes have figured out that a grain of truth goes a long way.

      Your observation about anything good being exploited is an interesting one… sad, but true.

      I will pass your suggestion on to MennoMedia.

      Happy New Year, Fran.

  7. thank you for sharing this. I also have left the Anish but regard and respect them highly. Dothey have their faults? Absolutely. But so do all of us. The older I get the more I realize I can learn from them. May God have mercy on these that are exploiting them for filthy lucre.

    1. Irene, thank you for your comments. And you’re right, the Amish are human like the rest of us. But these shows depict them as inhuman, and that is what bothers me.

      Like you, I have so much to learn from my heritage.

      Happy New Year!

  8. “If only we could live in their silence instead of engaging in all the noise of our culture.”

    I think we can if we try. The world is full of these people and the time will come when they will find that what they’re doing has no rewards.

    1. Joan, thank you for your thoughts. I like to think that people will eventually see what they’re doing has no rewards, but I also see people carrying on like this for years. Gracious, should the Amish die out, and three hundred years from now people could think this is what they were about. That would be awful.

      Thank you, Joan, for your thoughts.

  9. Saloma, what about boiling your blog post down to the size of an op-ed piece, and trying to get it published in a newspaper? You may not be able to stop the shows, but you can certainly help people see their exploitation from a different perspective!

      1. Larry Parnass at the Gazette would be a good initial person to speak with locally. Nationally, there’s a wealth of resource information at the website of The Op-Ed Project (www.theopedproject.org), including tips for approaching editors with your ideas, and a database of submission guidelines and contacts at U.S. publications.

  10. Salome, You said it so well in your blog about how the Amish are being exploited. It makes me sick when I see some of the programs passing by on the TV. I couldn’t even watch 5 minutes just to see what was going on. I also feel so terribly sad about what does go on in the inside of an Amish community sometimes but that is an entirely different matter. Sometimes I get irritated at the feel good bonnet novels but in comparison with the TV programs, the novels are mostly positive in comparison. Linda Byler is an excellent Amish writer. For years I gave talks to different Dutch women’s groups about the Amish and their way of life. It was mostly for the Dutch Reform group of ladies and I always told them about the positive things I learned from the Amish and my heritage. I had a suitcase full of quilts and I would base my stories around the quilts.
    Gr. Mary

    1. Mary, I am with you about some of the things that happen within the Amish… and you’re right, that is another topic, but no less important.

      I also like Linda Byler’s books. However, I resent the other bonnet fiction books for some of the same reasons that I don’t like this television shows. Even though they are in the other extreme of romanticizing the Amish… they are still exploiting them. I can’t help but think that someone noticed how much money is being made with those novels and decided to take it to the extreme.

      Your talks sound interesting. You and I should talk about doing a joint talk if I’m ever near you. Feel free to send me an email: saloma@salomafurlong.com.

  11. There are a couple of mentions on the web (one of them on an NBC television station website) that the producers admit to giving the actors in the supposedly-Amish shows “stipends” for living expenses–which is a sneaky way to give them money while still claiming they are unpaid. It also probably allows the producers to pay less than union scale wages.

    1. Julie, thank you for this information. This I do know… the producers of “Amish in the City” several years ago were paying the Amish youngsters only a fraction of what they were paying their “English” counterparts. I don’t know if these producers have any connection to the Evangelistas or not.

      So yes, by paying a “stipend” they get to have it both ways… they pay them enough money to “buy” their acting services, but exploit them by not paying them fairly. Either way, the public has a right to know that these people have to sign contracts to be on the show and that the shows are scripted. Which doesn’t happen for people who are interviewed for documentaries.

      There are criteria for documentaries. Why are there none for reality shows or “docudramas”? That just isn’t right.

  12. I always find your blog so interesting. I do not have cable and had have not seen these shows but you only have to look at the adds to see how crazy and wrong they are.Have you heard about Mmry Haverstick,a Landcaster film maker?She is leading a campaign on ending what she calls Amish-spoliation and can be found at respect Amish..org.. Besides speaking out she is working with buisnesses and civic leaders to convince them to not cooperate with the production of these shows- not to allow them to go to film on their properties. I do not have cable and have not seen these shows but you on
    Y need to look at their adds to see how crazy and wrong they are!

    1. Yes, I have heard of Mary Haverstick and “Respect Amish.” I’ve tried calling and emailing her, but for some reason I’ve not heard back from her.

      You’re right, you don’t have to look further than the ads to see the wrong in them.

      Thank you for your comments.

  13. Perhaps it will be heartening for you to know that, of all of the people in my life, only one person watches Amish Mafia. Yes, I am only one person with one group of friends, family, and acquaintances, but that still counts for something! :)

    The one person i know who watches the show believes that it is true. But she is mentally ill, and not particularly intelligent or effective in general. I have no fear of her doing anything harmful with the information she extracts from the show, other than seem like a lunatic when she expounds upon it.

    You said, “the only thing keeping some people from doing wrong is the threat of a consequence they will feel themselves.” I agree. Some people have character; others need consequences. I really think it’s a symptom of the human condition. I also think that the existence of blogs like yours help to fight the problem merely by being here and filling part of the void that creates the market for these nonsense shows.

    I recently learned of a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. (perhaps derived from a speech by Theodore Parker), which I like quite a lot. I think it’s applicable here:

    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

    1. Stacy, that is heartening to know. Though in my own circle of friends, I’ve had someone say, “Oh but I learn so much about the Amish from watching Amish Mafia.” Nothing I said could change this person’s mind. That’s when I want to throw my hands in the air.

      I hope addressing this issue on my blog will help. Certainly everyone has shipped in and shared this posting 116 times so far. I appreciate this immensely.

      I love the quote you left. It’s when the arc doesn’t seem to bending toward justice that I feel compelled to speaking out.

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful words, Stacy.

  14. Thank you for addressing this Selma. Iam not Amish but am apalled that these so called realty shows get away with such fake, false programs. It is sad that so many people sell their souls for money and fame. I am also upset when a mother like Kate Gosselin uses her children to work for their own support. No child should have to be put in that situation and give up their childhood so their mother can live in a luxury home with three vehicles and bask in glory. It is a sad commentary as so many people let the entertainment industry destroy and rule their lives and waste so much money on it.
    Keep fighting this and hoPE many do like us and not watch or support there programs or their sponsors.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I didn’t know how Kate Gosselin was, but I’ve looked her up and watched a few clips… oh my. I see what you mean. You’re right, it is fake and false, just as the shows on the Amish.

      Many thanks for your support.

  15. Then there is a show like Downton Abbey. They have an expert on the set at all times to make sure the cast and details are painstakingly accurate. BBC 1 Hot Snakes 0.

    1. What a world of difference, isn’t it? And yet Downton is labeled as fiction and the Amish shows are called “reality.” How twisted is that?

      Thanks for your perspective, Beth.

  16. Well said in this post Saloma. I appreciate how you identified this doubly-sweet spot that they have discovered–making programs about a people who won’t sue, using source material which they claim to be a part of some untraceable oral tradition. That gives an incredible amount of leeway in terms of the content you can produce while still claiming to have some–a smidgen–of grounding in reality. I just went on the site to find a clip about an Amish woman who supposedly gave birth to a half human, half goat baby…just awful stomach-turning stuff.

    1. Erik, thank you for your perspective. That example you provided is indeed stomach-turning. What it really shows is the depravity of the people producing such things.

      Thanks again for your comment, Erik. It’s always good to hear from you.

  17. These "Amish reality" shows are indeed disturbing. Fortunately, the media is just as fickle as the viewing public. The tide will turn at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), and "Amish reality" shows will have played out their welcome in the spotlight, and the media will chase some other "next big thing" (which likely be just as disturbing to people of faith). We are "English" Christians who do business with the Amish on nearly a daily basis and we respect their faith, their lifestyle, and their work ethic. We hope that by our marketing of their products to the world, the Amish can provide for their families and continue to live their chosen lifestyle on their rural farms.

  18. Pingback: About Amish | Amish Conference 2016, Part 2

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