Michael's Passing, Jupiter/Neptune & The 'Twitter Revolution'


At last, I'm ready to share a few remarks about the Jun 25 passing of Michael Jackson, in case you haven't gotten enough coverage of the whole shebang.

I won't, however, scour his birthchart to offer some authoritative take on what exact astrological happening 'caused' (or at least signified) his death, if such accounts can offer valid insight. Heck, we don't even have an exact birth-time for Jackson.

Instead, I'm struck to comment not only on the mass-mourning hullaballoo following Jackson's death, but the unusual manner in which we collectively heard and disseminated the news… as well as an interesting parallel between his natal astrology and our present astro-condition.

Upon my first glance at Jackson's chart following the big news, what immediately caught my eye was that he was born during a Jupiter-Neptune conjunction—a macro-level transit (which occurs approximately every 12-13 years) we're also currently in the midst of experiencing now. In my previous writing about this conjunction, I mentioned the tendency of Jupiter and Neptune together (particularly in their present sign Aquarius) to unify the collective consciousness in an upswing of optimistic idealism. And though I'm not sure 'optimism' would be a fair description of the collective response to Jackson's death, I would say the mass sharing of sympathy and compassion on behalf of this loss —if not also an 'idealistic' glossing-over of Jackson's shadowier traits, divorcing the actual man from his mythic talents—certainly qualifies as a Jupiter-Neptune experience.

We see this same Jupiter-Neptune influence over Jackson's entire public life, a larger-than-mere-mortal (or so it seemed) existence marked by both an ability to transcend ordinary social boundaries to touch a vast audience (he did create the best-selling musical album of all time) and a childlike 'dreamer' quality to his personality (the natal Pisces moon didn't hurt either) that kept him in a permanent state of huge-hearted idealism—or dangerous self-delusion, depending on who you ask.

Conjunct his North Node and sextiling his Mercury-Pluto-Sun conjunction (in Leo and Virgo), this natal Jupiter-Neptune conjunction (on the Libra-Scorpio cusp) strongly colored the passionate expressiveness he brought forth into the world, bestowing upon him a charismatic power nearly mystical, as well as potentially deceptive, two sides of the Jupiter-Neptune coin. This is a guy who sang songs like 'Heal the World' and 'You Are Not Alone', while making his residence in a magical place called Neverland.

As my colleague and pal Nick Dagan Best, a fastidious astro-researcher and music fan, pointed out in his take on Jackson's death, recurrences of the Jupiter-Neptune conjunction coincided with important milestones in the pop-icon's public image through his lifetime. So perhaps it shouldn't surprise us, then, that his life ended at another such recurrence… as another Jupiter-Neptune union trined his natal conjunction, while opposing his natal Mercury (the dispositor of his Virgo Sun, as well his possible chart-ruler per the rectified birthtime Best suggests). By this symbolism, Jackson's poignant capacity to touch collective hearts transcended his own abilities to manage a distinct bodily personality, for (in classic Neptune style) he sought to dull the pain of physicality through pharmaceutical escapism.

I will always remember Jackson's death as the first major news event I learned about from web-based social networking—in this case, Twiiter—as opposed to a traditional news source. I had already spent the earlier part of that day sharing my sadness, via Facebook and Twitter, about Farrah Fawcett's passing (which we'd all been anticipating happening any time, and which I'd been watching FB and Twitter for word of). By the afternoon, remarks that Michael Jackson had suffered a suspected heart-attack began trickling in through my friends' status updates and tweets (though, in the FB/Twitter world, we might use the term 'friend' lightly). My initial instinct, upon reading such unconfirmed news, was to visit various mainstream news websites I frequent: CNN.con, FOXNews.com, NYTimes.com, HuffingtonPost.com. They all confirmed that Jackson collapsed and was in grave condition. But reports of his actual death appeared first, to my eyes, on Twitter. After I spied a couple tweeted mentions that Michael Jackson was dead, I'd clicked back to the news sites… but found no mention of the death. So was he dead or not? If memory serves me, it wasn't for a good hour or so before I found 'official confirmation' at CNN.com. Did I no longer need to rely on the mainstream media to feed me my headlines, when I could get fresher information on Twitter?

(Tangent: Follow astrobarry on Twitter.)

The rise of Twitter, just one more development in an ongoing trend toward our increased reliance on web-based social networking (i.e., Friendster begat MySpace begat Facebook begat…), is a fitting symbol of Aquarius, the sign of societal collectives and the necessary decentralization that occurs when groups of individuals share responsibility for a team effort, with each playing his/her own unique role in the diverse rainbow of humanity. I already wrote about Twitter's role in Iran's post-election unrest as a Jupiter/Neptune-in-Aquarius phenomenon. And it's clear to me that the ever-growing importance of blogs and social-networking sites, in conjunction with the fiscal troubles threatening our newspapers and magazines, points to this decentralizing influence as a fundamental transformation in how we transmit and receive information. (My astrological career, for instance, simply wouldn't exist without this historical shift.)

But along with the welcome democratization of info-dissemination comes a much wider risk of misinformation—the spreading of falsehoods, paranoid conspiracy theories, opinions-as-facts, and other unconfirmed stories. After all, isn't that why it took CNN an hour to post the death news? They had to do the research to find out for sure if it was true. That's what they get paid for. Without such professional organizations, the quality of our collective data devolves… which is what we saw shortly after Jackson's passing, when rumors about the untimely demises of Jeff Goldblum, George Clooney, Britney Spears and others were passed indiscriminately through cyberspace at record speed. If two icons Farrah and Michael could uncannily leave our world on the same day, why not three?

One person's exclusive scoop becomes another's self-aggrandizing opportunity to be the guy who started the rumor that Jeff Goldblum died. Such is life under democratized news reporting. The nature of online information makes it hard to discern fact from fiction, straight-news from satire… as evidenced, for example, by this tongue-in-cheek story from a news parody website (a la The Onion) about disgraced SC Sen. Sanford's wife claiming 'Gay marriage wrecked my family', which was subsequently passed around the Internet as truth (the article's comments testify poignantly to that). It also affords anyone with a theory, convincing or ridiculous, their personal soapbox. Like: Was President Obama born outside the U.S.? Or: Did Sarah Palin fake her pregnancy with special-needs-baby Trig because he's someone else's kid?

(Aside: Both Obama and Palin have natal Sun-Neptune squares, making them prime targets for both blind adoration and paranoid projection. Palin, in fact, is strongly under the influence of this current Jupiter-Neptune conjunction… which also helps explain why she is so fascinating to the collective eye, and how her sudden resignation proved major competition with the Jackson story for media attention.)

Another side-effect: the glamorization of 'the average person' that results when anyone with a computer can turn themselves into a 'star' (see: Perez Hilton), with perseverance and ambition trumping talent as a prerequisite. A couple years back, I described this Neptune-in-Aquarius trend in which common folk have become our idealized public figures (see: Palin, Jon and Kate Gosselin, et al), while we've simultaneously been exposed to lots more personal details about their lives than ever before.

Which begs the question: Will anybody ever be as widely loved, like Jackson and other icons of his generation and earlier, in the brave new world of democratized fame? Individuals can surely become as famous as he—but perhaps not necessarily in as broadly adoring a light.

And while I'd have thought many people wouldn't remain as faithful to Jackson's legacy as they have, considering the molestation charges and other 'freakishnesses' attributed to him, Jupiter and Neptune have largely proved me wrong. Years past any major career high-points on his part, Michael Jackson will end up being one of 2009's best-selling recording artists. Executors of his estate, now responsible for paying off his debts, have Jupiter and Neptune to thank for that one.