I am a big consumer of satire, but apparently lots of people can’t really get it. I snort derisively here in my ivory tower (less ivory and more white plastic or that foam they make takeout coffee cups from, but you get me), but really, it’s a problem.
As modern readers, if we have a harder time understanding satire, it is partly owing to a decline of satire itself, which thrives in environments that repress select ideas. A prevailing theme of satire is how it often expresses opinions that, if spoken plainly, would lead to consequences for the author. Whether it’s an opinion that goes against the interests of a powerful person — such as a politician — or an institution — such as the government — or even one that creates dissent among the general public, satire uses its subversive form to express an idea that isn’t otherwise easy to talk about.
Writing anti-war sentiment now wouldn’t cause the same stir that Catch-22 did during its time. Both increased freedom of speech and the internet have made it easier for people to express themselves and garner support and sympathy for their opinions. Satirical sketches of politicians in the 20th century would also have captured more attention then because there was an idea of risk, of going against the grain to speak your mind. These days, lack of faith in our elected leaders and criticism of the government is the norm. No one blinks at these opinions.