Phenomena: The “News”
This morning I woke up and turned on the radio. The news poured out like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: pestilence, famine, war, death. So I changed over to a music station and had my mind cleaned by Bach.
This set me wondering though, about the effect of constantly hearing the news on the psyche. Because the news we hear — at least where I live — is pretty much by definition bad: another tsunami, another corrupt politician, another child missing. Indeed, if our world view is shaped by what we hear on the news, then the world is a very dark place indeed.
It’s hard to get away from the news. There it is on our Facebook feeds, on TV, every hour on the radio — indeed an alien from another planet might find our constant diet of bad news really noteworthy.
Of course, humans have always spread news — fake and otherwise. Earlier examples of fake news? The witch-hunt in early modern Europe, the blood libel against the Jews. But it was not until the invention of the printing press that news started to be reproduced and distributed by governments and news entrepreneurs.
The first paper was published in 1605 in Frankfurt by one Johann Carolus. That was a year during which Saturn in Sagittarius (dissemination of ideas) made a beautiful trine to Pluto and the North Node in Aries (beginnings). Jupiter, the publishing planet, was in mutual reception with Saturn from Capricorn.
Just over 10 years later, the first broadsheet paper was produced in Amsterdam between June 14 and 16, 1618. Saturn had by this time made his way around to the other sign on the axis of information, Gemini, opposite to where he had been in 1605. And during that week, Mars made a conjunction to Saturn, which is neat. What of Jupiter, the publisher? Well, Jupiter was squaring Saturn from boundless Pisces, and triggered by the Moon. An industry that is still with us was established.
Newspapers are defined by the following four criteria. They are accessible to the public, published at regular intervals; their content ranges over several topics and the information they contain is up-to-date.
Starting with those early sheets, read avidly and passed from hand to hand in the coffeehouses of Amsterdam, Hamburg and London, the “news” has flowed through revolutionary pamphlets, war-time propaganda sheets, radio, television and now the internet. As it flowed, it grew in size, reach and frequency — and today we live in a world of 24-hour news from multiple outlets, all competing for our attention.
A critical moment came on 22 Oct 1835, when the French entrepreneur Charles Havas opened the first newswire office in Paris. From the offices of Havas eventually evolved Reuters and AFP (Agence France Press), both still with us today. Havas was able to provide almost instant international news from his network of correspondents across Europe.
By 1835, Pluto was finally back in Aries — and the information axis was busy all year. Jupiter had been back in the journalist’s sign, Gemini, as Havas recruited his correspondents around Europe. And interestingly, Pallas, the asteroid of insight, spent almost the entire year in Sagittarius.
But perhaps most notable of all, both Neptune and Uranus were in Aquarius — just as they were in the noughties, when the internet went boom. Similarly, Havas’ wire service would eventually become a network that connected the entire planet.
On the day Havas established L’Agence des Feuilles Politiques-Correspondance Générale, Uranus made a perfect trine to Saturn in Libra. So it should come as no surprise that Havas was interested in establishing a stable of fair and unbiased reporters.
But back to the deluge of news that we wade through these days. The first 24-hour news channel on TV was CNN, which first broadcast in 1 June 1980 from Atlanta, Georgia. Radio had already been doing the 24-hour news cycle, but CNN and the other stations – Al Jazeera, BBC, RT among others – which followed would shape the next 38 years.
There are some curious synastries between these two chart; not least the 1980 Uranus, often associated with modern technology, sitting right on that Scorpionic journalist in the form of Mercury in the 1835 chart.
The first twitter message was sent on 21 Mar 2006, at 9pm in San Francisco, California. By that time we were into the age of Neptune and Uranus in mutual reception across the two most collective signs — Aquarius and Pisces. Information would know no boundaries — indeed personal stories could now be on the same footing as official news. Look at the conjunction of Uranus and Mercury Rx and Neptune-Venus…. The narcissistic echo-chamber of social media written in the chart. And yet, the egalitarian nature of Twitter — so Aquarian — is part of its charm.
Note also the conjunction of the Moon (people) and Pluto (!) in Sagittarius — back to our information axis.
So here we are now, with Uranus about to spend the best part of a decade in Taurus. The god of change and technology has reached the opposite side of the Zodiac from where he was in 1980, digging up the dirt in Scorpio. Is this a kind of mid-life crisis for 24-hour news? Have we unleashed a minotaur?
Personally, I have reached peak news. I’ll just look at some cats and owls on my twitter feed instead.
I’m interested in what you think about these charts.
This is my column for the bimonthly Infinity Astrology Magazine called Phenomena, which takes more general look at the zeitgeist.