Et Tu, Guardian? Normally Reasonable Paper Embarrasses Itself With Fawning Piece About Popular Astrologer January 20, 2014

Et Tu, Guardian? Normally Reasonable Paper Embarrasses Itself With Fawning Piece About Popular Astrologer

How’s this for an astrological prediction:

“You may have already heard the rumors — October is not due to be an easy month in any which way. … The new moon may trigger contract negotiations, but talks are likely to hit snags.”

That was Susan Miller‘s reading for President Barack Obama a few months ago. Actually, it was her reading for Leos in general. Miller is apparently a famous astrologer. Aaron Hicklin, writing for the Guardian, is impressed by how “uncanny” her talent is. When he first meets her,

… Miller is riding high after forecasting a diabolical month.

How so? Hicklin figures that the malarkey above is actually an on-the-nose reference to the government shutdown over the budget. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that being the president of a superpower means you never have “an easy month,” and that “negotiations” hitting “snags” are part of Washington’s daily grind.

Miller has nevertheless parlayed such preposterous triumphs into a neat little empire.

Today millions of people look to Miller to tell them who they are, and where they are going — 6.5 million online every month, and rising.

The fashion world, especially, has great affection for her, Hicklin reports, in part because she validates their guesswork with gems like “Accessories are going to explode in the second half, because Jupiter’s in Gemini” and “With Uranus in Aries, we’re moving away from the sparkles.”

Take Glenn O’BrienGQ magazine’s “style guy.” He told Miller’s daughter Chrissie

“Please thank her for me. I bought a car right after Mercury, and I signed a lease.‘” (O’Brien later confirmed this story, adding that the fashion and art worlds had always expressed a natural affinity for astrology. “Creative people are natural pagans,” he said. “It’s the only way you get to talk about Venus and Mercury and Jupiter.”) …

“Part of it is that we’re just such blabbermouths,” says Mickey Boardman, the editorial director of New York’s downtown bible, Paper, who only has to mention his friendship with Miller to find his stock precipitously rising. “Suddenly they’re emailing me every day wanting to have dinner with her — and I don’t blame them,” he says.

He tells Hicklin (jokingly, mind you),

I hope this is not some kind of evil exposé about how all astrology is lying, because all my fashion people and I will hunt you down and kill you.”

But Boardman had nothing to worry about. Hicklin is sold on the astrologers’s talents, believing them to be genuine after Madame Miller predicts that he may experience headache, toothache, or bad ankles at some unspecified time in the future. When he comes down with chronic tooth pain, he briefly ponders if it could be just his “English teeth,” but then decides that Miller indeed has some special gift.

That’s despite the fact that the other things she told Hicklin about himself turn out to be false. He didn’t have headaches or bad ankles, after all; and while Miller was more or less right about Hicklin owning some of his grandmother’s china (so what? tens of millions of people surely own fine dishware they inherited), she missed again when she suggested Hicklin had lots of people sleeping over and is quite the party animal. He denies it — and yet he decides to follow her online, hungry for more of her written-in-the stars wisdom.

I downloaded Miller’s app and I’ve found myself checking it casually each morning. Unexpectedly, I find myself spotting observations that correspond with my life.

I didn’t see that coming. Oh wait, I did. (Maybe I’m psychic!)

There’s nothing unexpected about Hicklin seeing, in astrology columns, “observations that correspond with [his] life.” That’s how these carnival tricks work: the mark is told just enough vague generalities about himself that one or two of them, generously interpreted, can be deemed broadly “correct.” Confirmation bias can be hard to overcome.

It would be one thing for some tabloid rag to fawn over Miller. That a more or less serious broadsheet like the Guardian sees fit to run such a deeply irrational piece is disheartening.

By the way, I apologize if I’ve offended anyone with this post. It’s just that I’m a Leo, and we’re a skeptical bunch.


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