I found this article on the Daily Beast which summarises Catch 22’s influence, I removed it from the website due to it being hard to read with adverts :
Joseph Heller always made it clear that it was not World War II that inspired the sardonic cast ofCatch-22 but the postwar years of cold war, political stalemate, nuclear anxieties, smug intolerance, Red-hunting, and corporate bureaucracy.
With his morning-in-America language and his denunciations of the Evil Empire, Ronald Reagan tried to lay the Vietnam syndrome to rest. There was no Jimmy Carter-style “malaise” in his upbeat vocabulary. But his insistence that greed was good, that self-seeking was the American way, only fueled the national cynicism. As an ethical outlook it was Yossarian personified, Yossarian squared, yet it also unleashed the corporate culture that Heller and his contemporaries had loathed. It was certainly not the communal ethic of service and sacrifice affirmed by Kennedy, or by FDR before him. For all his idealization of American life, Reagan left the impression that ideals were for chumps compared to the solemn obligation of getting ahead. Bill Clinton’s conversion to humanitarian intervention made a difference. So did the bustling economy and the soft uses of American power during his administration. But the only real challenge to disillusioned cynicism came after the 9/11 attacks, which briefly restored a sense of patriotism and national unity not seen in this country since the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Then, as Heller later recalled, there was almost no one his age who was not eager to sign up. It is no small irony that the 50th anniversary of Catch-22 should coincide so closely with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. No one can fail to recall the eerie chill that settled on the city, the haunting images of the towers falling, the clouds of toxic dust, the bouquets of flowers in front of the firehouses, the grim, troubled faces of people on the subway, the unsmiling doormen in front of residential buildings, the political quarrels that shattered long friendships but also the amazing drop in local crime, which withered in the wake of a huge national crime. Older writers like Mailer and Susan Sontag were outspoken in their hatred of the new patriotism, which proved short-lived, since it was soon kidnapped by Bush and Cheney for their agenda of reshaping the world in our image. This did little to restore our sense of national purpose. Joseph Heller always made it clear that it was not World War II that inspired the sardonic cast of Catch-22 but the postwar years of cold war, political stalemate, nuclear anxieties, smug intolerance, Red-hunting, and corporate bureaucracy. As an airman flying 60 missions Heller himself had actually had a good war, or so he claimed: “I was an ignorant kid. I was a hero in a movie. I did not believe for a second that I could be injured. I did not really believe that anyone was being injured… I’m telling you, the war was wonderful… I had no idea what war was like until I read about the Vietnam War … I don’t consider that I’ve been in combat with my 10 months overseas.” After the war this youthful sense of adventure foundered in struggle and disappointment, which Heller projected back onto the war. The sour corporate and family life of Heller’s harsh second novel, Something Happened (1974), is really a prologue to the darkening comedy and metastasizing horror of Catch-22. The genius of Catch-22 is not so much in its point of view as in the explosive originality of its technique. Many writers of the late 1950s had made the same points about the loss of self in mass organizations, the hollow rhetoric of idealism, or the existential vulnerability of Lear’s unaccommodated man, that poor forked animal. These were commonplace notions of a cultural moment rich with metaphysical angst and keen social criticism. But Heller, by turning these truisms into whiplash Abbott-and-Costello routines, gave them fresh and indelible form. Catch-22 is so funny that I almost failed to read it. After seeing a roommate of mine laugh out loud on every page I assumed it was little more than an army joke-book, something like No Time for Sergeants. It was years before I picked up the book and discovered how wrong I was. Heller’s comic-book realism and razor-sharp language, ramped up from his own experience, give the novel a reach and profundity that make you pay dearly for having been so amused. Seemingly broad, formless, and anecdotal, the book circles around leitmotifs that take on the ring of inevitability. When freezing Snowden spills his guts in the back of a plane and Yossarian tries helplessly to comfort him—the scene toward which the book has been building throughout—Heller brings war, death, and the pitfalls of the human condition home to us. The stand-up routines have not prepared us for this bleak revelation, though it is foreshadowed on every page. The death of Kid Sampson, sliced in half by the propeller of McWatt’s plane, his organs raining down on those frolicking on the beach, prepares us for the long-awaited exposure of Snowden’s secret. We learn what we already knew, that man is disposable matter, an imperiled creature of flesh and blood. Catch-22 is less a war novel than a timeless act of existential protest, a cri de coeur that makes comedy heartbreaking and cynicism poignant. No wonder the writer had so much trouble topping his first act. This helped my understand some key points in Catch 22, hope it can help someone else.