NPR Covers Pluto Ingress Into Capricorn, Does Hatchet Job
A few days ago National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece on astrology that focused on the recent ingress of Pluto into Capricorn and its relevance to the economy. That is how it starts out at least, although the tone of the segment and the demeanor of the guy who did the interview came off as pretty smarmy and condescending. The end result was another piece in a long line of what is essentially bad press for astrology in the national media.
It starts off with an interview from an astrologer in Oregon called “Johnathan David”, who is apparently the president of the Oregon Astrological Association, although on the OAA’s website his name is listed as Jonathan Linneman. For some reason they seem to have gotten his name wrong in the interview and on the transcript.
Linneman is basically mocked at one point in the interview when the guy who put together the segment, Mitchell Hartman, asks rhetorically
Is planetary motion a plausible explanation for economic motion? I tested the theory with Jonathan David.
Johnathan David: Pluto is going to be going significantly through the U.S. chart of the 8th house — the house of mystery and death and rebirth.
Hartman: Um… Maybe not.
Another astrologer, Dena DeCastro, came off sounding far better in the interview, having the rare opportunity to point out that astrologers view astrology as working through the principle of synchronicity rather than having some sort of direct causal influence:
Hartman: But then I met Dena DeCastro, a very serious counseling astrologer who sees the heavenly bodies as indicators, rather than causes, of events down on earth.
Dena DeCastro: I don’t believe that the planets actually make things happen, so much as they reflect a larger order to things.
Unfortunately this was then used as a transition into a question about how business is for astrologers lately, presumably with CNN’s recent story in mind about how the ‘psychic business is booming’. The interviewer bookended comments from another astrologer named Susan Davis’ with similarly glib statements (emphasis added):
Hartman: Which made me wonder, how’s the astrology business faring in a looming Capricornian depression? Susan Davis sees walk-in customers at the back of a psychic accessories shop in Burbank, Calif. She says a lot of her colleagues are hurting, but she’s booked solid. Her secret isn’t in the stars — she’s quick and cheap.
Susan Davis: ‘Cause I’m just basically a what’s-going-to-happen-type person, not what your personality is, or what you’re thinking or feeling — I don’t care. I just want to know what’s coming in your life. And 15 minutes will do it.
Hartman: At 20 bucks a pop.
The comments are subtle, but the piece is obviously a hatchet job that was designed to both make fun of some astrologers, and to denigrate the entire profession. At the same time it sheds little light on what the subject matter of the piece was purportedly supposed to be about.
At this point we’ve almost come to expect this sort of thing from some of the mainstream media outlets such as CNN, with their tactless swipes at astrologers, but for some reason it is even more disappointing to see NPR engaging in these sorts of hatchet jobs as well.
You can read the transcript of the segment or download an MP3 of it on NPR’s website. The astrology portion starts at about 20:25 on the MP3. Listen to it and let me know what you think. Do you think that this piece started out as an intentional hatchet job, or was it just poor editing after the fact perhaps?
Thanks to Nikki Neal as well as Kevin Uehlinger on the HA Forum for the tips on the story. If I ever end up interviewing you two, I promise not to get your last names wrong.
Update: In the NCGR E-New Commentary that just came out tonight Kenneth Irving pointed out that technically American Public Media was the source of the above story on astrology, not NPR, even though it was broadcast on the same channel as NPR. Apparently some others have made the same mistake as well. I’m not sure that I agree with his statement that the piece was “lighthearted” and “respectful of the three astrologers interviewed” though.