The night was quiet. In the distance I could hear the frogs croaking around the little pond behind our barn. All the chores were done and the cows were turned out to pasture. Way off in the distance I could hear a coyote yapping.
I was nine years old—still at that stage where babies came down from heaven on a cloud. Where if you fell down in the dirt, God would appear, pick you up, brush you off, kiss your hurt spot, and then vanish again. A time when mom and dad were my heroes, elders within the church were always right, and I fully trusted every adult I met, because that is what you do at that age. Aww but if only we could all hang onto the innocence of childhood.
Usually, when supper was over, after crawling into bed, I would fall asleep right away. Maybe it was from the long days in the fields, or maybe falling asleep quickly is just something a nine-year-old boy does. However, for some reason on this particular evening I was lying in bed wide awake.
And then I heard it. The distant, faint, clip clopping of horse's hooves falling on the asphalt. A buggy traveling at midnight in the middle of the week??? I sat upright in bed. Something wasn’t right.
As the sound of the clip clops got closer, I glided silently from my bed and to the window. I watched the buggy come to a halt on the shoulder of the road. In the shadows of the tall trees, three men got out of the buggy. The men carried pitch forks. I froze as I watched my very first act of a secret society few people know much about. Something that is only muttered in undertones for fear of getting visited by The Amish Mafia.
I added this paragraph later, after being asked by quite a few people about why I never finished my story about the Amish men with pitchforks. That first portion of this blog was actually an attempt at showing the absurdity of the concept that there might be an Amish Mafia. And just for good measure, I threw in a touch of sarcasm for good measure. SO many people have asked me whether there is an Amish Mafia, that quite literally, this blog was designed to thumb my nose at the very ridiculous notion. In hindsight, attempting to lead the reader down a fictitious road of deception was in poor taste. Most people got my attempt at humor, a few did not. In other words, I created those men with pitchforks just to dramatize the beginning of this blog.
Moving on. How many of you truly believe that there is such a thing as an Amish Mafia? How many of you have questions about it, but are skeptical? And finally, how many of you call B.S. on the whole thing, and think that the latest show, Amish Mafia is false, and a ploy by a handful of actors and the Discovery Channel to make a controversial show, exploiting the Amish, for ratings and money?
In this blog I will go into detail about my own personal feelings and opinions related to this subject. For those stumbling upon this blog for the first time, those of you who are big fans of the show, Amish Mafia, and are reading this for the first time, you may ask, “Who the Heck does this guy thinks he is?”
If you didn’t watch some of the shows I have done in the past about my people, the Amish, I apologize. I will probably come across as a rambling fool. I assure you that if you haven't seen Amish in the City, 2004 on UPN, or any of the Amish: Out of Order Series televised on the National Geographic Channel in 2012, then you won't ‘get’ me. Finally, if you haven't seen any of the shows I have been a part of, scroll to the top of this page, go into my TV SHOWS, and they are all there...
A thousand people have asked how I feel about Amish Mafia. I even posted on my Facebook Fan Page about the fantasy football championship I won earlier this year. You know what valuable lesson I learned? I learned that the people who know me as the TV Mose, don't give two hoots about my fantasy football. I discovered this when the only response my fantasy football post I got was, “What do you think of Amish Mafia?” I'm not complaining. What it did, however, is force me to voice my opinion on the Amish Mafia.
My goal in this blog is not to make you an unfan of Amish Mafia, but rather to set the record straight. Let us take a step back. The year is 2004. I have been out of the Amish for about 1 1/2 years. I am approached by UPN to be on a reality show. The show was Amish in the City, and I think it was the first ever Amish reality show. Amish in the City was so controversial that almost the entire series had to be filmed in private. The Amish had gotten wind of the show and because of a freedom of religion thing, went to some congressional committee, trying to stop the filming of the show. Amish in the City had to be screened by some high up officials, don’t ask me who, I was way down the chain of command in those days, before it could be televised. UPN had no opportunity for advertising, with the first episode airing without anyone even knowing it’s coming. The idea was that once the first episode aired, and viewers saw how uncontroversial it was, they would let the entire season air. Which is exactly what happened.
I tell you that to shed a little insight on how far things have come since then. For starters, there is not the slightest inkling of a doubt that if our show would have been Amish Mafia back in 2004, only eight short years ago, not one episode would have ever crossed the screen. But can one blame The Discovery Channel? After all, I agreed to be on the first ever series with real Amish and Ex-Amish characters on it. Maybe I am partially to blame for breaking the ground for the shows that are now airing. Let me say for the record that I am not losing any sleep over being the first. Had I not set the groundwork for what the Amish people are, and what they believe in, someone else would have—someone less respectful about the Amish culture—someone like Lebanon Levi.
In fairness, for me to give my opinion on Amish Mafia, I needed to watch at least one episode. So, I pulled up a chair, a bag of popcorn, and flipped to the Discovery Channel. I noticed that there was not one, but three hours running back to back. Without doing the proper research, I would presume that it was the 3rd week of the show, and the first hour or two were reruns, and the third was a new episode.
My thoughts? If you are looking for entertainment, than this show will serve that purpose. I admit that I was glued to the TV, wondering exactly what they would happen next. Even though I knew early on how fake it was, I was somehow roped into it in some weird, twisted way. Maybe it was the sympathy I felt for the cast who probably had no clue what they were getting into when they were approached by the producers. Maybe it was shocking lack of respect for the Amish people and all they hold dear.
Amish Mafia goes where The National Geographic Channel, Stick Figure Productions, and the rest of the cast of Amish: out of Order could have gone, but chose not to. Judging by the Twitter feed coming in at the bottom of the TV screen, a lot of viewers really believe the show is real, and that they are, for the first time, learning shocking details about a secret society recently uncovered. I haven't checked the ratings, but assume the show is doing well. I can only cringe at what show comes next, in order to exceed this one’s popularity.
A few things that I noticed in only one episode, keeping in mind that I have a slight advantage in spotting irregularities since I was not only raised Amish, but lived the life for the first twenty-two years of my life. Couple this with the fact that I have been behind the camera, and in front of it, for hundreds of hours, and I easily picked out more discrepancies.
In the scene where the Amish lady was on her way to visit Johnny's, and was, in her words, “Hit by someone who was passing her in a hurry and kept right on going”, What I noticed is that the front left buggy wheel was smashed. Upon further investigation by the ‘right hand men’, they found a four-door white sedan that fit the description of the hit-and-run vehicle What popped out to me is that the car was damaged in the exact same place. The front left fender. Now my theory, and correct me if I am wrong, is that either the Amish lady didn't have her story straight, and the car was actually coming from the front, or, more plausible, they found a cheap old car that was junk anyway, so that Lebanon Levi's right hand man could go shoot a hole into it. I won't even speculate on whether I think the whole plot was scripted from start to finish.
Lebanon Levi, head of the Amish Mafia, handles the insurance, and all the money for the Amish. Okayyyy. What I saw were editors who didn't cut his clips quite quick enough. Often, at the beginning or the end of a script that Levi was reading off of, I caught the beginning or the end of a doubtful look, a smile, a glance for approval from the camera guy, or plain uncertainty of what he is supposed to be saying. The clips were so cut together that even if it was only for a fleeting second, it was quite noticeable. Which leads me straight to topic three.
After reading off a teleprompter or written script only a few times, one can easily pick up on someone else who is doing the same. Watch the eyes, not talking to you, but reading listlessly off a written script. Not only was Levi doing this, but Alvin, who seemed timid, shy, and reserved, and definitely a poor fit as the man who you have to cross in order to get to Levi, could not seem to piece together a complete paragraph on his own. As a matter of fact, I never in one entire episode, saw Alvin say more than a one-liner at a time.
Amish cast members or paid actors
If you are not familiar with all the different kinds of Amish, Mennonite, New Order Amish, Beachy Mennonite, Swartzentruber Amish, and about 50 other variations of Amish, it may be difficult to recognize for sure if these kids have Amish ties or if they're indeed just actors. I can say with all certainty that, although we have never been formally introduced, every one of them has been directly Amish in the past. The rest of this paragraph is pure speculation, but this is what I think. In Pennsylvania the Amish are much more liberal with those exploring in the outside world. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether the cast still lives at home with their parents or have officially left the Amish for good. Gut feeling, they have officially left, and have been considered Ex-Amish for quite some time. Either way, one can tell their Amish ties by their clothes, the vehicles they drive, their German/Dutch accent, and how they carry themselves. In Missouri, they would certainly be called Ex-Amish, and would be shunned by the Amish communities. I assume in an even more liberal community like those in Pennsylvania, they are still shunned to some level. But, Lebanon Levi and his men caught a respected elder of the community going with a taxi driver to hang with a prostitute at a local motel. With the help of a camera, they got incriminating evidence of this misdeed. Again, I won't spend time speculating on whether any of this is true or if it is all scripted. Let's assume, for the sake of this topic, that this entire scene is true and, with the evidence and pictures they collected, that Levi approaches this man in his own house, and in search of more power or leverage, confronts him with the Gospel, than orders this Amish elder to move out of the community for a while until things settle down.
Hold the heck on! Lebanon Levi, a shunned Ex-Amish kid, who has never been baptized into the Amish church, drives to the home of a respected elder of the Old Order Amish community IN HIS VEHICLE, WITH A CAMERA CREW, confronts this man with blackmail, IN HIS OWN HOUSE, and orders him to leave not only his own home, but also his family and community while he, Lebanon Levi, finds a way to help this wayward man get his life back on track? Is it just me or does anyone who knows an established elder of the Amish community and their stance toward a wayward Ex-Amish, see the irony of this situation? To think that somehow Levi has manipulated not only the entire Amish community but also English people, including the local police department, to all turn their heads away, to fear him, and to bow down and be ordered to move out of a community under ANY circumstances is far-fetched beyond belief, and laughable at best.
Levi handles the insurance and other money for the Amish—need I say more. Every Amish person I know is a very hard worker and slow to part with their money. Would they really let a shunned Ex-Amish handle their money? But, the show keeps stating that Levi is well-respected among the Amish for his role as a mafia leader, and that he is ‘loved by some’ and ‘feared by others’. Do I really need to go into any further detail on this subject for the reader to form an opinion on whether Levi touches even a single penny of one Amish person's money?
And finally, last but not least, sex, sex, and more sex scandals. I suppose if you are going to do a controversial show about Amish people, with no holds barred, and no screening before the show is aired, what better way to get ratings than to make it as shocking as possible. And what is more controversial and gets better ratings than sex scandals? In fact, in one forty-five minute episode, I counted four separate ongoing sex scandals. Heaven forbid Amish Mafia do a show about Brother Jedediah stealing a buggy or a cow from Brother Joseph.
The one thing that Amish Mafia gets right is that the Amish do not like confrontation. When a show like this comes out, they see it as a sign from God that the end of the world is near. Instead of fighting this show, they would rather see it as God’s will, so, why question God?
When I did Amish: out of Order, I caught mild to, at times severe criticism from the Amish and Ex-Amish. In comparison, right now, I am the good guy. I believe I speak for every Amish and Ex-Amish when I say that every single one of them is feeling embarrassment and humiliation over what this show portrays as truth.
So why did I finally go on record and write the most controversial blog yet, knowing full well that there will be haters who will accuse me of everything from being jealous of the ratings, to having sour grapes that I wasn't a part of it.
Here are the two main reasons:
Reason One. I do feel partially to blame. I may have, in part, been responsible for opening the flood gates of Amish reality TV. But, I now have no control over how these shows are edited. So, about the only thing I can do is inform of their inauthenticity.
Reason Two. Every Ex-Amish in the outside world has family and friends that are still back in the Amish communities—Amish that, although we do not all have the relationship with them that we would prefer, we still love them. Amish who, like it or not, believe that they are living right and pleasing God with their simple lifestyle. My own Amish family will now have English people judging them, with some wishing to spit in their faces. In closing, blood truly runs thicker than water, and I do not care to see my own blood slighted, trod upon, belittled, taken advantage of, or misrepresented.
So, is there an Amish Mafia? No, there is not. Between the Discovery Channel running a disclosure at the beginning of the Series stating that it is fake, and what I have posted here today, hopefully, you now feel the same way.
My name is Mose J Gingerich, and I approve this message.