What the Hell is a Gadfly?

“Gadfly” was the term Socrates used to describe himself. (Well, technically it’s the English translation of the Greek word that Socrates used, but never mind.) A gadfly is someone who goes around verbally stinging people to irritate them out of their complacency and perhaps get them to think. They have been viewed as both heroic and as enormous pains in the asses. Often they are swatted. Jesus was a gadfly. So was Martin Luther King, Jr. A good newspaper editor is often a gadfly.

On the other hand, it’s not always so clear cut. Rush Limbaugh comes to mind as someone who many people would call a tremendous gadfly, but others would say is a paid entertainer who makes lots of money telling a specific segment of people exactly what they want to hear. Which is right? I can’t say.


The only rule of thumb I know is, if you’re getting rich off what you do, you probably aren’t a gadfly.