Social gadfly  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A gadfly is a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators.

The term "gadfly" (Ancient Greek: μυω̃ψ, myops) to describe Socrates' relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato's writings, pointed out that dissent, like the gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

In modern and local politics, gadfly is a term used to describe someone who persistently challenges people in positions of power, the status quo or a popular position. For example, Morris Kline wrote "There is a function for the gadfly who poses questions that many specialists would like to overlook. Polemics are healthy." Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg has talked about "gadfly social science," emphasizing a key role for social science in identifying and challenging the abuse of power, whoever the perpetrator and whoever the victim The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense, while at the same time be accepted as a description of honourable work or civic duty.

The Book of Jeremiah uses the term in a similarly political metaphor. "Egypt is a very fair heifer; the gad-fly cometh, it cometh from the north." (46:20, Darby Bible)

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Social gadfly" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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