Tourism vs. Reality TV: Exploiting Pennsylvania's Amish

Sun Aug 17, 2014 8:08am EDT
 
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By David DeKok

HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - They typically wear plain clothing with nothing as fancy as a button or a zipper, travel by horse-drawn buggy and shun modern conveniences like electricity.

It's that Old World charm of the Amish that draws 8 million tourists - and $1.9 billion - each year to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, home of the nation's largest Amish community of 31,000.

What the Amish don't do, supporters say, is tote rifles as part of a violent protection racket - as depicted in the television show "Amish Mafia" - or regularly defy their religion, like in "Breaking Amish" and "Breaking Amish: Brave New World." And, Amish horror stories are not the norm, despite the plot lines of the upcoming "Amish Haunting."

“This is a false portrayal," said filmmaker Mary Haverstick, who is leading a push to eject the shows, airing on the Discovery Channel and related networks, from Lancaster County.

The movement is gathering support because of what some see as a demeaning, inaccurate portrayal of the gentle, devout group.

Hotels and restaurants are urged to turn away film crews, Haverstick said.

Last week, more than a dozen state officials, including Governor Tom Corbett and Congressmen Joe Pitts and Patrick Meehan, issued a statement citing "bigoted" and "negative, inaccurate and potentially damaging portrayal of (the) Amish" and demanding an end to the shows.

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a regional interfaith coalition of clergy echoed those comments.   Continued...

 
An Amish horse and buggy travels on a road in Bart Township, Pennsylvania December 1, 2013.   REUTERS/Mark Makela