One editorial note before we begin: The Onion and South Park are not on this list. Both are fine practitioners of satire, but I couldn't find an example from them that fit neatly into our theme. After all, morons who actually believe Onion stories to be true usually just get outraged by the events rather than hating the paper. South Park has certainly pissed people off, but those who were angered were typically the people being satirized. When South Park satirized Islamic militants for threatening death at the depiction of Allah, and then received death threats from Islamic militants, no one missed the point.
These following satirists, however, were confronted by those who simply didn't get it.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift's 1729 Essay A Modest Proposal (Full Title, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public) is arguably the greatest piece of satire in English literature. In it, Swift addresses Ireland's poverty, overpopulation, and starvation by proposing a simple solution: eating the babies of the poor - after proper compensation to the parents, of course.
First, Swift notices the problem:
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags.
Then proposes the solution:
[The children], at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?
Allegedly, many people reacted in disgust to the notion of both cannibalism and infanticide because, apparently, killing babies and eating them is sort of a bad thing. Indeed, public reaction was so intense that at one point Swift's patronage was also purportedly in jeopardy of being lost for proposing such savagery.
What's The Actual Point?A Modest Proposal skewers both apathy to the suffering of children and the wrongheaded and convoluted social programs in vogue at the time that purported to address the plight while seemingly oblivious to the realities of human suffering. By proposing cannibalism and infanticide, Swift stirred an immediate horrified reaction in any reader who wasn't, y'know, into murdering and eating babies. But after that immediate reaction, an active reader probably then had another thought: why if I'm so horrified by the notion of murdering children, am I content to let them slowly starve to death from extreme poverty? But, like I said, those were just the thoughts of active readers. Those not passively accepting content. Rest assured, there were plenty of people in 1729, half-reading the essay while raping their indentured servants and muttering the 18th century's equivalent of "fail."
The Life of Brian by Monty Python
Legendary English comedy troupe, Monty Python, stirred considerable controversy with their second movie, The Life of Brian. In it, Python tells the story of Brian Cohen, a young Hebrew who is worshipped, mistakenly, by a group of people who think he's the Messiah. Brian is well-meaning, but clumsy, and ultimately crucified by the Romans.
What Did Morons Think Was Going On?
Damn Monty Python to hell for mocking our one true Lord and savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings! Yep, Python faced extreme wrath from religious quarters for their mistreatment of the Lord. Numerous countries such as Ireland and Norway banned the film outright for years. In a famous moment (for British television anyway) Mervyn Stockwood, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, debated John Cleese and Michael Palin on air, likening the Pythons to Judas, and claiming they would get their "30 pieces of silver" for the film.
What's The Actual Point?
In all this commotion, many people apparently forgot to notice that Brian is NOT Jesus. Indeed, the two opening scenes of the movie make this point painfully clear. The three wise men initially show up at the manger next door to the baby Jesus'. And later,(as shown above) we see the real Jesus, respectfully portrayed, and watched by Brian in the distance. Instead, Python were satirizing the trappings of blind religious zeal such as the scene where a group of zealots perceive a lost sandal to be a sign from the divine. The movie also mocks the easily duped Romans who engage in savagery, and the highly fractured state of the Jewish community at the time. One thing the film does not mock, however, is the teachings of that famous guy from Nazereth. Accordingly, it seems those good Christians who vilified Python not only forgot to turn the other cheek, but didn't even wait to be struck before throwing the first stone. Yeah, I mixed two biblical metaphors. Sue me. At least I didn't, y'know, throw hateful and baseless accusations at comedy legends.