Respect and the Thought Police'": Illustrating Socrates' Term Paper

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Respect and the Thought Police'": Illustrating Socrates' "Gadfly Analogy" from Plato's Apology

Webster's New American Dictionary defines "gadfly" as "a person who annoys, esp. By persistent criticism" (p. 213). By that definition, Socrates' critics certainly would have considered him one. (It is easier to decide someone is a mere "gadfly," rather than an astute social critic, or a rare perceiver of truth should one feel offended by the "gadfly." ) For example, individuals or groups who feel their own interests, power, authority, etc., may be threatened by what someone like Socrates (or in today's world, journalist Edward Fiske or novelist Salman Rushdie) says are often eager to apply the label "gadfly" (or worse) in order to trivialize the person's words, and encouraging others to do likewise. In that respect, journalist Fiske, of Paul Fussell's Class, and novelist Salman Rushdie (who consistently reminds others that his seemingly esoteric and freakish problem with free expression really is their problem, too) are "gadflies" as Socrates was in his day. The common ground between the three is that all seekers of truth, even the sorts of truths that threaten or offend others.

In Fussell's Class, journalist Fisk comes in for harsh criticism from Syracuse University professor David Bennett for daring to call his institution third class.
As Fussell notes, the professor, instead of heaping vituperation on Fiske, might have taken action to improve education at Syracuse, like "cleaning up the registration mess, or reforming the teaching assistant scandal" (Class, Paragraph 150). Instead Bennett inflicted "gadfly" status on Fisk. The old adage "the truth hurts," applies. Bennett may also well have asked himself, ion conferring "gadfly" status on Fiske,"What is a mere journalist doing attacking my professional terrain? Clearly, for Bennett to look objectively at his flawed fiefdom represents a threat.

Fiske's Selective Guide to American Colleges may have made him a gadfly to some in 1982-83. Salman Rushdie, on the other hand, qualifies for permanent gadfly status. Over the years, Rushdie has convincingly pointed out myriad ways that his seemingly obscure problems with extremist Muslim clerics are not so obscure after all. For instance, as Rushdie mentions in "Respect" and the Thought Police": ". . . broad . . . international acceptance of 1st Amendment principles is being steadily eroded. Many special interest groups, claiming the moral high ground, now….....

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