A gadfly is a person who upsets the status quo
by posing upsetting or novel questions...
The term has been used to describe many politicians
and social commentators.
The term "gadfly" was used by Plato in the Apology
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."
This may have been one of the earliest descriptions
of pragmatic ethics.
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.
Morris Kline wrote "There is a function for the gadfly w
ho 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.