Hitler's mouthpiece got booted from American restaurants, too

Nah. Aesthetically and morally, it’s pretty dire.

I’ve heard Olympia is better on both fronts, to be fair.

No. She doesn’t deserve any civility, because in these debates it’s a codeword for servility.


Setting aside the odious ideology, as an aesthetic and technical ouvre, The Economist said Triumph of the Will “sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century.”

The big question with any artist is: can you set aside the ideology? Being completely honest, I’m not sure I have the answer. Some of my favorite artists were (or are) terrible people.

I’d probably put Yelizaveta Svilova (slightly) above Riefenstahl in terms of influence, but I am biased, because Svilova was more behind the camera like me.


One might also argue that the same 1934 party congress she filmed sealed Albert Speer’s reputation as the greatest set and lighting designer of the 20th century, but no-one is doing that despite the undeniable craft and originality and influence on other artists’ work. Why?

In the case of Triumph of the Will the problem is with the piece of art rather than the artist because, despite the undeniable talent and craftsmanship, one simply can’t separate out and set aside the ideology from a purpose-designed propaganda piece. When an artist willingly takes on such a commission and also cozies up to a monstrous patron, the questions of the terrible nature of the art piece and the terrible nature of the artist as a person become two separate but intertwined questions, both of which overshadow the artistry.

Olympia, on the other hand, is more documentary than propaganda film (although it contains some subtle underlying elements reflecting Nazi core values). If one wants to demonstrate that Riefenstahl is the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century in terms of talent and craft without taking on the full freight of collaboration with Nazis that picture can do the job just as easily as the one other feature she made.


Completely agree on ‘Olympia.’ Undeniable genius, but inseparable from its fascist aesthetic.

Hal Riney’s “Morning in America” is simultaneously (in my opinion) one of the greatest and most odious pieces of American propaganda.

This is the literal propaganda playbook for Trump’s second term. How can we challenge this?


An unsigned piece from that great journal of cinema theory, The Economist?

ETA: Here’s Ebert’s piece on the film, which paradoxically labels it one of the “GREAT MOVIES” and calls it “terrible […], paralyzingly dull, simpleminded, overlong and […] too clumsy to manipulate anyone but a true believer.” I must confess that the contradictions (and parallels with early Warhol?) almost intrigue me.

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Would be cooler if typed in all caps.

Viva la revolution!


Very well put. My problem with TotW is that it has nothing to say but “Yay, fascism!” It is not a film with fascist subtext, or a film with a fascist story or heroes, but simply a fascist act in and of itself. I can’t cheer along, so what response is left? I quickly became bored. (Horror would be another perfectly valid response, I imagine, but even that, in this case, would not precisely be an aesthetic reaction, as one might have to say Last House on the Left.)

Granted, it’s very well put together, but so are lots of oppressive, boring things that I would prefer not to make time for.


It worked out for this guy…


We got into this partially because alt-right trolls "ironically’ diluted hateful imagery and terminology to the point that some people had a hard time knowing whether or not they were serious, giving them a cover of plausible deniability.

Calling everyone a Nazi dilutes has a similar effect. The power of association and thus makes it less useful when you want to call out real a Nazi.There’s a reason Godwin’s Law was created.

Attacking people and namecalling make people take you less seriously and shuts down oportunities for dialog. It accomplishes nothing but making people feel superior.

This is not a call for civility. It’s a tactical better tactics.

Karl Popper fan!
I am more for John Rawls.

(I find SHS being booted out of a restaurant funny and troubling at the same time).

Is it about Rawls’ “ideal of public reason” stuff?

That has a known failure mode in the face of fascism.




Yes: to comment wryly on the nature of debates on the Internet. Godwin’s Law is not specifically about calling people Nazis or its effects:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1

Godwin himself has been clear about likening people like Richard Spencer to Nazis when appropriate:

That said, while I have no problem following Godwin’s advice I am a bit pedantic about who I call a Nazi. I find “fascist” and “right-wing populist” and “nativist” and “ultra-nationalist” (etc., etc.) to be better terms, labels of disgrace only slightly better than full-on Nazi. “Alt-right” isn’t really a label for an individual as such but a descriptor for a broad movement that shares a lot of far-right goals and sentiments in common, often hiding them behind a scrim of irony that anyone with half a brain can see through to the sincerity.

At the same time, I understand that for many people “Nazi” is a good enough shorthand for “shill for a nativist right-wing authoritarian regime” and while I don’t join in I also don’t make a big deal about it. I also don’t hesitate to compare statements and actions of people like Sanders to those of the Nazis when appropriate (which is all too often and only increasing).

There is no productive dialogue to be had with right-wing populists, fascists, Nazis, and (as any reputable journalist in the White House press room will currently attest) shills for nativist right-wing authoritarian regimes. This is partially because the idea of productive dialogue is anathema to thugs and bullies and partially because to engage in dialogue with them is to confer legitimacy to their noxious and dangerous views.

The better tactic is to start with the recognition that, whatever you call them, they are enemies of liberal democracy and call them and their actions and beliefs out as such – even if they’re too ignorant or stupid to understand that this is what they are. If that means telling them “hey, that’s the kind of thing the Nazis did” and hounding them out of restaurants where people with a basic sense of human decency are trying to eat then so be it.


WRT Triumph of the Will:

It’s been a couple decades since I saw it, but I still remember it. The subject matter (a documentary a propaganda film in the form of a documentary about a political rally) is dull as dishwater. The cinematography and editing (which are what cemented Riefenstahl’s reputation) are top notch.

ETA: It has the reputation it has because despite being about something so dull, it still holds your attention, thanks to the director’s skill.

ETA2: clarification that it’s not really a documentary, it just adopts the format of one.


First, isolate the significant segments that are most likely to buy such garbage. The Know-Nothing 27% are write-offs, leaving approx. 24% of the electorate to target with various pieces of counter-programming. For some (mostly young people) it will be parody ads, for some it will be demonstrations of the actual damage the regime has done to their personal interests (e.g. workers and farmers) or to international alliances and trade agreements (e.g. establishment conservatives and moneyCons and neoCons) or to liberal democracy as a whole (the few remaining Eisenhower Republicans still out there). Appeals to civility and the desire to have a well-adjusted adult in the Oval Office again can also work with that group.

We won’t get all of that 24%, because many are trolls and chaos addicts in their own ways and others of them have personally benefited from the regime. But in our polarised country with its two-party system this is a game of making your margin, and getting half or a quarter of them would be enough to swing things in a better direction.

To enact this part of the strategy, liberals and progressives, and specifically the Dems, have to be as vicious as their opponents and use the same tools (targetted marketing, viral videos, clear/verging-on-simplistic distinctions, etc.) to defeat them. The time for seeing this country as a reasonable one is long past, and when faced with opponents like this no quarter can be given anymore in the name of “civility” or “comity.”


As @gracchus suggests, consider your audience.

If you’re thinking about how to reach Trump supporters, you’re doing it wrong.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans are heavily outnumbered by the non-voters. Those people are disproportionately working class, disproportionately PoC, disproportionately young. Their politics are, on average, to the left of both parties.

Those are the people you need to reach.


Thank you for pointing this out – non-voters are a huge untapped resource and the GOP tends to ignore them. If the Dems* want the votes of these non-voters they have to stop considering them as “apathetic” people who just need a ride to the polls along with a superficial and borderline-insulting pitch and instead look at them as citizens to whom nothing substantive to increase their well-being has been offered by either party’s establishment over the past 35 years.

How to target the different segments of this group is tricky because any appeal has to start with an apology for past neglect, something the Dem establishment is terrible at (the Clintons, for example, are like Fonzie in their inability to admit they were wrong). But if they want those votes it has to be done, followed up by offering something other than more Third Way triangulation and worship of slow AIs. I’m hoping that Sanders’ “Our Revolution” movement will continue to force the party leftward and allow for those apologies and new offerings.

[* I know you’d like to see a revolutionary third party take advantage of this but Andrea is asking about one duopoly party making its margin in the 2020 campaign]


I appreciate your thoughtful response.

Spencer is a Nazi. Call him a Nazi. He is also not an elected official and barely counts as a public figure these days. Lefties make a mistake on obsessing on him and equating him with Trump, Huckabee-Sanders, etc. Your average Trump voter who loves Sarah Sander doesn’t give a cahoot about Spencer and probably doesn’t know who he is.

To clarify, we don’t need dialog with Huckabee-Sanders, nor Trump. We need dialog with the people who voted for Trump. Right or wrong in their support for Trump, they will be less likely to take anything we say seriously if we call their candidates Nazis.

In the interest of success (which in a democracy can be defined as dialog between parties with differing opinions resulting in group decision making) we need to be more tactically sophisticated. This means not calling people with disagree with Nazis, even if it makes us feel good.

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I’m not sure what “lefties” you’re listening to, but the ones around here understand Spencer for what he is: a supporter and enabler of the regime who has never been disavowed by it (perhaps it considers him one of those “fine people” from the Charlottesville tiki torch march).

Perhaps not about Spencer directly, but they do connect with the message of white entitlement pushed in different ways by Spencer and the regime he supports.

As noted in my response to Andrea above, not all people who voted for him. The Know-Nothing 27% of the electorate can’t be reasoned with, but there are various avenues of persuasion toward keeping enough of the other 24% home on election day 2020.

The regime and its base most assuredly do not define that as “success”, perhaps because they’re antagonistic to the very notion democracy itself. When one’s opponents are fascists and authoritarians “success” is defined by their destruction as an effective political force.

Those on the left are not just calling them Nazis just because we disagree with them but are rather comparing their words and actions to those of the Nazis and backing up those comparisons with facts.

It might be unfair to call Sanders a Nazi, for example, but it’s perfectly fair to point out one of the many times she’s acted just like Goebbels and hound her out of a restaurant on that basis (ruins one’s appetite).