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7 Examples of an Iconoclast

An iconoclast is an entity that attacks the valued beliefs, ideas and institutions of a society, culture or group. More specifically and literally, an iconoclast attacks cherished visual symbols. The following are illustrative examples.


In its modern form, iconoclasm is considered somewhat synonymous with intellectual rebellion. For example, an individual who bravely challenges popular groupthink may be labelled an iconoclast.

Iconoclastic Controversy

Iconoclasm isn't just for rebels as it can be an established power structure that attacks visual symbols. For example, the iconoclastic controversy was a period in the history of the Byzantine Empire when religious authorities in the Orthodox Church banned religious images and symbols. This was based on passages in the Old Testament that appear to criticize or prohibit the veneration of images such as the passage below.
Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves.
~ Leviticus 19:4


Subvertising, also known as culture jamming, is the production and communication of parodies of advertising and other media communications. This is typically designed as a criticism of society, media and the commercial manipulation of social issues such as virtue signalling and greenwashing.


Generating disinformation about the visual symbols of your political opposition as a means of propaganda. For example, claiming that a symbol widely used by your opposition has a dark secret meaning.


Destroying visual symbols as form of protest. For example, protestors that destroy the symbols of a nation or political party as a political statement.


Art that criticizes a society, system, ideology, culture or organization by using their visual symbols. This often takes the form of a allegory that is mysterious, subtle or open to interpretation.

Destruction of Heritage

Physically destroying the valuable symbols of a society, tradition or people in order to disrespect or extinguish their culture. For example, a nation that destroys a valuable religious site or artwork and then denies it ever existed as part of a program to assimilate a culture.


The image above is a Buddha head that has been enveloped by the roots of a tree at Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya Thailand. Many Buddha statues in the area are missing their heads due to vandalism by the Burmese army during their invasion of northern Siam in 1765-67. This Buddha head is now considered a priceless example of world heritage that is part of the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Overview: Iconoclast
Definition (1)
An entity that criticizes, attacks or prohibits cherished visual symbols.
Definition (2)
An entity that strongly criticizes the valued beliefs, ideas and institutions of a society, culture or group.
Definition (3)
An intellectual rebel.
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