Propagandist: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will begin by defining the term 'propaganda,' and then move on to learn what a 'propagandist' is. We will look through history to identify famous propagandists.

Introduction: What Is Propaganda?

Before we examine the term 'propagandist,' let's begin by defining the term propaganda. What is propaganda? Propaganda is simply the use of media to influence attitudes or views. A lot of people think of posters when they hear the word 'propaganda.' The 'Rosie the Riveter' poster of World War II may come to mind. Certainly World War I and World War II posters were a highly visible form of propaganda, but propaganda is so much more than just posters with catchy slogans.

A song can be used as propaganda. So can a photograph, written text, a film and numerous other forms of art. In fact, the possibilities of propaganda media are nearly endless. The important thing to remember is that propaganda is communication used to influence ideas (usually ideas of a political nature). Art for the sake of art is not propaganda, but art used to change a person's political view is propaganda.

We have to understand, propaganda is not always necessarily evil or deceitful. Although it has had a negative connotation because of its use by the Nazis in WWII, propaganda is simply using media to influence ideas.

Let's look at a few famous pieces of propaganda:

Der Fuhrer's Face by Spike Jones and His City Slickers - This was a World War II song that promoted American patriotism by making fun of Adolf Hitler.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine - This was a famous pamphlet that helped popularize the idea of American independence from Great Britain.

The Eternal Jew - This was a Nazi propaganda film designed to reinforce anti-Semitism.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David - This is an 1805 painting depicting Napoleon Bonaparte as an illustrious leader.

So… propaganda can take a variety of forms, but it is always designed to influence public attitudes toward important issues (usually related to politics.)

What Is a Propagandist?


This is easy. A propagandist is someone who creates and/or disseminates propaganda! A propagandist is someone who actively creates propaganda material, or is involved in spreading it. A propagandist might be a writer, film producer, painter, photographer, musician, etc., but they are consciously involved in disseminating their material for the purpose of influencing attitudes.

Famous Propagandists

Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels is probably the most famous propagandist of all time. He was the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda for the Nazi regime. He supervised all forms of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Third Reich.

Hanoi Hannah. Hanoi Hannah was a female North Vietnamese radio personality who directed propaganda speeches to American soldiers. She typically tried to make American soldiers feel homesick and disillusioned with their circumstances.

Thomas Paine. Paine was a writer and philosopher who promoted the cause of American independence through his treatises.

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