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Leni Riefenstahl shooting Triumph of the Will, Nuremberg, September 1934.
Leni Riefenstahl shooting Triumph of the Will, Nuremberg, September 1934.

Triumph of the Will Pulled from YouTube as Platform Cracks Down on Extremism

On Wednesday, YouTube announced it was tightening its regulations on hate speech and discriminatory content by “prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” The policy change has resulted in the removal of content that promotes or glorifies Nazi ideology and videos that deny the occurence of “well-documented violent events,” such as the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Among the videos that were removed is Triumph of the Will (1935), the Nazi propaganda film by the controversial German director Leni Riefenstahl, who has been historicized as both an extension of the Third Reich’s inner circle and a pioneer of avant-garde cinema. Susan Sontag addressed Riefenstahl’s contentious legacy and what she called her “fascist aesthetics” in an excoriating 1975 essay, “Fascinating Fascism,” in the New York Review of Books.

“Anyone who defends Riefenstahl’s films as documentaries, if documentary is to be distinguished from propaganda, is being disingenuous,” Sontag wrote. “The line taken by Riefenstahl’s defenders, who now include the most influential voices in the avant-garde film establishment, is that she was always concerned with beauty. This, of course, has been Riefenstahl’s own contention for some years.” 

In its announcement, YouTube said that they “recognize some of this content has value to researchers and NGOs looking to understand hate in order to combat it, and we are exploring options to make it available to them in the future.” They continued: “As always, context matters, so some videos could remain up because they discuss topics like pending legislation, aim to condemn or expose hate, or provide analysis of current events.”