On being Mevazeh the Gedolim
A serious charge that is sometimes leveled in contemporary Orthodox society is "You are being mevazeh the Gedolim!" (The word mevazeh does not have a perfect English translation; the closest terms are "disparage" and "denigrate.") But what actually counts as being mevazeh the Gedolim? (Note that I am using the term Gedolim in its popular but inaccurate definition.) That is a fascinating question with some very disturbing answers. Respect for rabbinic authority is an important part of Jewish tradition. However, there is also a strong tradition of standing up for truth.
There are different scenarios to be discussed. Obviously I am not talking about name-calling or anything like that, which is surely never justifiable. (Strangely, however, there is a popular speaker who once referred to an important rabbinic leader as a "moron" and managed to get away with a very unconvincing apology - I think that this was because the rabbinic leader was not in the charedi camp.) Rather, I am talking about scenarios which don't involve obvious disrespect.
One is relating stories about the actions of the Gedolim which can be perceived as less than stellar. This, of course, is what happened with the famous case of Rav Nosson Kamenetzky's banned book Making of a Godol. That work presented biographical accounts of many Gedolim which were actually true, and thus very different from popular hagiographies. It included certain anecdotes which revealed these Gedolim to be human rather than superhuman. Controversy raged about whether or not this was disrespectful.
Another situation is disputing the positions taken by Gedolim. Many people are unfortunately of the opinion that this is automatically a sin of being mevazeh the Gedolim. Incredibly, Rav Chaim Kanievsky even stated that someone who supports one of the rival charedi political parties is guilty of being mevazeh the Gedolim! This, however, has no basis in Jewish tradition or Torah law. (An exception would be undermining the practical authority of rabbinic leaders of one's own community, which is certainly against Torah principles.) Of course, disputing people's positions should be done with due respect, but the nature of that respect is necessarily going to vary tremendously in different circumstances. For example, in some cases, there may genuinely be very little respect that is due. Another factor is that the nature of discourse varies between different cultures and societies - that which is considered par for the course in some places is viewed as unacceptably rude in other cultures.
The third situation is the most bizarre: quoting the positions taken by Gedolim. Now, you would think that there could be nothing objectionable about that. Yet this, too, is a case where many people consider it offensive. Marc Shapiro's important new book Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History provides countless examples of cases where positions of great Torah scholars were censored out of their works, because they were considered to be inappropriate. This is very strange - after all, if you are publicizing the teachings of someone that you consider to be a great person, then surely you should respect their right to see things differently from you.
What happens when one actually goes ahead and quotes the strongly-held position of a Gadol in a case where his view is embarrassing to some people? I have done that on several occasions and have been accused of being mevazeh the Gedolim! My response is that if people have publicly voiced positions with significant ramifications, then these positions should be widely known, not suppressed. If there is any loss to their honor as a result, that is their own responsibility.
Unfortunately, for people who would like to put these figures on a pedestal and blind themselves to problematic positions they have taken, it's much easier to shoot the messenger than to honestly face up to reality.