Common Sense and Critical Thinking
Another look at detecting false information
The internet is giving me much information to use as lessons in fake news lately. What amazes me the most is that people post comments liking, agreeing with, and supporting the false narratives. It is as if everyone has forgotten to use common sense and critical thinking skills. Or the problem could be that the Western wokeness discourages these skills.
Everyone loves to hate Biden
Just today, I found the following post on Twitter:
With 1.4 million views, 17.4 thousand likes, and a bunch of retweets, we can see that a minimum of 1.2% of people believe this picture is correct. It may not be a huge percentage, but we also do not know the number of viewers who did not like or repost this tweet.
The Biden Pants Clues
Several things tell me this is a fake photo — first, common sense. If you ever tried to put a pair of pants on backward, you would find it quite challenging to zip up the zipper. Buckling the belt would also be a problem, not to mention how uncomfortable it would be.
People who claim caretakers will put pants on patients backward to keep them from disrobing in public are mistaken, as in the United States, it is considered elder abuse (humiliation, subtle abuse). 
Next, let us use our critical thinking skills. First, the photo is very blurry. News agencies expect photographs to be clear and sharp. If you enlarge the picture and look where they point to “pockets backwards,” you will see that the Photoshop user’s blur effect uses a slightly different color. The “beltloop in the middle” and “no fly” areas also have discoloration. Third, the shadows do not correspond to the direction of light in the photograph (from the right). The doctored photo on the right shows lighting from both the right and the left.
The “belt loop” is a leftover blur effect on the actual belt buckle in the original image. You can see these items more clearly when you look at the original photo, which was easy to find with a quick internet search.
Twisting the Truth
In this second example, we are looking at a photo from Reuters where people take shelter in the Kyiv metro station during a Russian missile strike. This February 11, 2023, Reuters news article is titled “Russia’s war on Ukraine: The latest news.”
The Shelter in the Metro Clues
Let us look at common sense issues first. The article links to twelve pictures in total. Some images are unrelated to the conflict, some are not newsworthy, and some date back as far as June 2022. It brings the “latest news” into question.
Next, let us apply critical thinking to the picture. The main photo does, however, require some knowledge about how Russians and Ukrainians use metro stations as bomb shelters. Subway stations are packed with people when you see pictures and videos of people sheltering during actual bombings. People also spread blankets and pillows near pillars and walls when possible. One can sit more comfortably against the wall, and the belief is that walls and pillars supply better safety against the collapse of the metro station. However, sometimes the number of people sheltering is too great to accommodate this “luxury.” You also tend to see many suitcases during massive missile strikes.
One sure way to tell either a staged photo or video, or one where people stay in the shelter for the convenience of not going back and forth to their homes, is that subway trains do not run during missile strikes. Therefore, if a train is moving (as in the photo above), there are no active air raid sirens or active missile strikes. During an active bombing, the metro cars stay in the station with doors open, so people can sit or lie in the train cars.
Exercise your critical thinking
I will end this article by calling on people to exercise critical thinking. Coupling critical thinking with what I said in my last post about viewing sources over time to help you decide their reliability will help you learn to be a trustworthy news savant.
We’ll discuss this article on Episode 23 of Scenes from the Evolution.