You seem to have never encountered a person who wished for a simpler, smaller camera.
I've encountered both -- those who wish for small simple cameras and those who wish for small but powerful cameras. The former use iphones or point and shoots, the latter usually use SLRs or mirrorless.
Many people who buy low end DSLRS cameras love pictures but are not into nit-picking over technical adjustments, doing AFMA or reading about it on gear forums. They buy zooms, not primes, because zooms are more useful to them.
Yes, but many people who buy low end DSLRs are buying them because they can't afford the high end cameras (e.g. art or photography students).
And your claim about treating buyers of low end products "with contempt" is imaginative, but not based on any fact. It presumes a fantastic mind-reading ability. You imagine this contempt for the buyer because your premise is that cheaper products should have the same advanced features as more expensive products, which is not a valid premise in the business world. That's a prescription for business failure.
But what makes a product "cheap" or "expensive" ?
Feature bullet points, especially firmware related ones aren't it -- even point and shoots have impressive feature sets these days (face recognition, built in panorama support, as well as more "serious" features like raw support, color temperature control, spot metering, manual focus and/or selectable AF regions, hotshoe mounted flash etc)
In a competitive market, what makes a product expensive are features that add substantially to marginal or fixed costs of production, and/or absence of economy of scale to absorb fixed costs. In the case of cameras, the former largely consists of the sensor (e.g. larger sensors are MUCH more expensive), and most probably a more rigorous testing process.
There's no reason features that don't add substantially to marginal cost of production shouldn't be included in cheaper products. Failing to put this there is just a way of crippling the cheaper products. In Canon's case, it seems to be a calculated move to prevent their low end products from cannibalizing sales from their flagships. Whether or not this will be a good business strategy for them is an empirical question -- but I would find it hard to recommend the rebel line to a serious user on a tight budget.