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.