Everybody Wins

The internet scammers who mine social media are getting seriously bold and stupid these days. For a long time we’ve encountered silly click bait— “Like this if you love your country!” and “Share this if you believe in Jesus!” Those gave way to the slightly-less blatant “What kind of animal are you? Take the quiz!” and “Name a movie title that doesn’t begin with Q— 90% will fail this test!”

Lately we’ve gotten a new rash of “satire sites” which— unlike legitimate satire sites like The Onion— are actually just thinly-disguised schemes to con people into sharing links by fooling them with crazy headlines intended to spark the secret dreams of certain types of readers: “President Obama caught smoking crack!” or “Michelle Bachman filmed worshipping the Devil!” Some are now even allowing readers to make up their OWN crazy headlines for display on their site. Of course… THOSE sites don’t want viewers to realize they are satire until after readers have clicked on the link and earned them some ad money. They just want to fool you long enough to give them a few clicks and user impressions.

There are now whole groups of bogus “news” sites operating under the guise of “parody,” which— like the “Share if you hate animal abuse” ouvre of sites— are ALSO just click farms to attract views and generate ad money. They are getting pretty damn obnoxious, too… they don’t care what they have to say (or the effect it has on readers), or even if it has zero basis in truth. All they care about is views.

That’s the “made you look!” school of gaming the Google Ad system.

I suppose we should have come to expect such treatment at the hands of modern advertisers. Just look at the horrific mess they’ve made of reality television, generating one ridiculous freakshow after another in an effort to earn ratings and score the resulting ad dollars. Lowlife show creators leave no stone unturned in their quest for idiotic sensationalism— pageant kids, dance moms, swamp people, dubious celebrities acting out— they’ll put anything on the screen to attract viewers.

For me, the worst is the recent rash of bullshit reality shows which supposedly deal with the Amish.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I personally spent six months of my life back in the mid-90’s meeting and interviewing assorted Amish while designing an educational tour destination in Lancaster, PA, and have nothing but respect for them. They are just people, good and bad (with all that entails), who happen to embrace different rules than the rest of us. I live in Lancaster and interact with them regularly.

The whole “Amish Mafia” and “Breaking Amish” fiasco that’s currently going on is pretty disgusting (though most reality shows these days are about finding some group of people who are doing something interesting or unusual and exploiting them to make “compelling television”). It makes me sick to my stomach and I won’t watch it, but at least the ACTUAL Amish aren’t directly involved with any of it… the casts are comprised of ex-Amish and Mennonite actors pretending to be Amish. It’s exploitation for entertainment… but I guess so was the Broadway musical “Plain & Fancy” back in the 1950s, and the 1984 film “Witness,” really.

I wish this new rash of bad Amish film media wasn’t having a negative effect on them, but it’s making things more difficult for the real life Amish by attracting tourists who don’t know (and don’t care about ) the difference between the fiction and the reality.

The whole current “open season” on Amish film and TV projects disgusts me because it’s all so predatory and awful. But I suppose horror films and reality programming do exactly the same thing with Catholics and Fundamentalists, using them and their beliefs as a backdrop for numerous bloody monster movies. So I guess— at least in that genre— nothing is sacred and all religions are considered fair game.

As long as people leave the actual Amish alone and stay on the other side of the road, I suppose it must be tolerated. There’s no stopping production companies eager to earn a fast buck inventing bullshit for reality TV viewers.

Besides— practically everybody is prey to that sort of media exploitation these days— not just the Amish, who, at least, don’t have to WATCH the insulting crap made about them.