Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Stan Lee is Not Dead Week!

Stan Lee. He's the legendary comic book author and screen writer that changed how we see the world, one of his most famous lines ever written is, "With great power comes great responsibility." The geek in me is aware that this excellent piece of advice was originally included as a narrative line in Spiderman comic book Amazing Fantasy #15 and is later used in in flashbacks as Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) recalls this advice being given to him by his Uncle Ben.  Later it was added to Uncle Ben's dialog in the movies as well. It is great advice. And that's what brings me to declare this week, Stan Lee is Not Dead Week.

That's right, recently there was yet another celebrity death hoax, this time reporting that Stan Lee had died.  Well, he didn't. He's still going strong. I knew the minute I read it because I was watching the news, and there was no mention of it. Just in case, I went to a search engine and typed in "Is Stan Lee dead" hit enter. on the first page my suspicions were confirmed, Stan Lee alive and well, just a hoax. Wow, that was easy, mystery solved.  But it got me thinking about Stan Lee, how much he's given us, and reminded me of that line, "With great power comes great responsibility."

So how do we celebrate "Stan Lee is Not Dead Week?" Read a couple of his books if you have them, watch one of his movies. Check out the excellent documentary about his life (so far, it's not over yet) "With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story" (currently on Netflix, I watched it a couple weeks ago.) Post something nice about him in the feed of your choice, you don't have to wait until someone is actually dead to sing their praises. But first and foremost....to celebrate the fact that Stan Lee is NOT dead, please consider the following as I get up on my soapbox...

The Internet is a powerful thing my friends. We are creating it every day, you are, and I am. We make content, we share content, we read content. Where are we getting our "news?" Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, many people are using these formats as news sources, and yeah, I have as well. How many times have you scrolled down your feed and a post grabs your eye, you read the headline and take it as fact. Total fact, because it's on your feed.   Well, they call it a "feed" for a reason. If all people do is take everything that is tossed into the trough, then half the time they're eating garbage. Some of it is truth or news as we like to call it, however a growing amount of it is satire which appears to be news but meant as a joke which ends up being believed as true. Sometimes it's a hoax or a complete fabrication with malicious intention that we also believe to be true.  But the Internet is right there, it's in our hands, it's so easy it's almost like a superpower that one of Stan Lee's heroes or at least a sidekick might have. Open a new tab, do a quick search, and there is the truth. Is the website a satire website? Now you know it's not real. Don't know what satire is? It's ok, you can Google it, it's so easy man. We don't have to be a high tech hacker or even a super genius, just type in the question and weed through the answers until we find the real news story.  It takes just a minute to do.
Amazing, be sure to share this news story with your friends! Umm, it says News right at the top, so it must be real!

So everyone reads this fake news story, and then they hit "share," because everyone on thier feed needs to know this amazing, sad, disturbing, or wonderful thing! If we worked for a real news source how many people would be fired because we don't bother to fact check? I repeat, we are creating the Internet and "With great power comes great responsibility."  We get to choose what we add to the feed, we get to decide what we spread, and so many out there just eat the garbage and click the button and feed all their friends the same garbage into the trough.  I'm sorry you can't believe everything that comes down the feed, you just can't. Everyone gets to publish on the Internet, and it's actually pretty amazing. Never has there been such an opportunity for expression. But we need to listen to our "Uncle Stan" who has spent his whole life so much time caring deeply about the content that he provided his readers with. He wrote not only great stories, but inspired us with his feelings about inequality, justice, right and wrong, and caring about people. All those lessons and more are in his comic books, modern fables, legends and myths. He has always cared about good content, he never feed us garbage. He puts personal messages into his books because he cares about his readers.  Do we? Do we care enough to check before we share? We have the whole world at our fingertips, do we care enough to try to make our little corner of the Internet a more truthful place? Do we believe that with great power comes great responsibility?  No one is perfect, we all post something from time to time that is incorrect, I've done it by accident myself, but we have to try.
Ok, probably no one's going to die if you share a fake news story without fact checking, but we are making our world a dumber place, and that's bad enough for me. 

None of Stan Lee's heroes are perfect, they make mistakes, but they learn from them and try to do the right thing. He wants us to know that it's all part of being human, but he also reminds us with his stories that we're more powerful than we know and that we have to try to act responsibly, even if all we can do is make our little corner of the world, even the virtual world a better place.  Through his very human stories of super humans, he teaches us to strive for a higher standard every day, become more than we were yesterday.

Hey Stan, I'm glad you're still here, and yes, I got the message. Who wants to join me in being as super-human as we can be? Happy Stan Lee is Not Dead Week!

Mickie Mueller