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How To Sift Through Media Bullsh*t

Presented by Bo Bennett, PhD

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A society is only as good as its citizens, and our intellectual contributions or lack thereof have far-reaching effects. While this short course is unlikely to make you a master of parsing information, it's a heck of a good start!

Don't Fall for Fake News Again!

Learn important terms such as fake news site, click bait, echo chamber, fallacies, and more.
Learn how our cognitive biases get in the way when it comes to accepting reality
Learn how to quickly evaluate any information source
Learn how to ask the right questions when deciding how much weight to give information
Learn how to spot when you are being misled, deceived, manipulated, or outright lied to

Learn How To Be a Responsible Consumer of Information

A fact is a fact, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. A "fact" is primarily defined as "a thing that is indisputably the case." The problem with that definition, is that virtually anything can be disputed, and most things are. But the legal language of "beyond reasonable doubt" applies to this definition. Many times, especially on the Internet, facts that are disputed are done so WITHOUT reasonable doubt. For example, there is an entire organization devoted to disputing the fact that the earth is NOT flat.

A secondary definition of "fact" is "a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article." These "facts" are still "things that are indisputably the case," or are supposed to be, but used in this context, facts are used to support a theory, conclusion, or opinion. For example, one might argue that the government is out to enslave its citizens. They may offer several facts to support that argument including the facts that the government can imprison people, the government HAS imprisoned people, and the government has no plans to stop imprisoning people. No reasonable person would dispute those facts, but that doesn't mean that the facts adequately support the argument or claim.

Very little information we consume is straight fact. We consume opinion, commentary, satire, gossip, conspiracy theories, marketing copy, and other forms of non-facts. Even when we are given facts, it can be done in such way to mislead, deceive, and manipulate where we are led to develop a false sense of confidence in our conclusions based on these facts.

Oh, by the way, "alternative facts," are falsehoods.

We may not have a legal obligation when it comes to being a responsible consumer of information. But one can easily argue that we do have a moral obligation. A society is only as good as its citizens, and our intellectual contributions or lack thereof have far-reaching effects. While this short course is unlikely to make you a master of parsing information, it's a heck of a good start!


This course was designed for students 13 and up.

Personalized Feedback

Unlike most online courses unaffiliated with a university, each lesson in this course includes assignments that are manually evaluated by the instructor with detailed feedback provided (instructor evaluated course option only).

Learning Resources

For this course, text, audio, and video resources are used. All of the resources are compatible with virtually all modern web-browsers and mobile devices.

Instructor Availability

The instructor is available for students to discuss course-specific content via e-mail, online chat, Skype, and telephone for the first six months of the course (instructor-evaluated option only).


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Required Resources

There are no required resources for this course.

Optional Resources

There are no optional resources for this course.

Course Organization

This course begins with an introduction lesson, then the other lessons presented are in no particular order. You are free to skip around to the lessons that interest you most at the time and complete the lessons in any order.


This course is graded on a pass/redo scale. When lessons are reviewed, the student will either get a "pass" or a "redo". Students can redo assignments as many times as they like. All of the lessons are evaluated by both manual review of lesson-specific assignments and automatic grading of quizzes.

Student Evaluation

This course contains instructor-reviewed assignments, self-evaluated assignments, and multiple choice quizzes. There are no due dates or time limits on any of the assignments or quizzes.

Student Expectations

As a self-paced course, there are no time expectations. However, student support is limited to 6 months from the start of the course date. Students are expected to communicate with instructors and other students in a professional and respectful manner.

This Syllabus May Be Updated

The contents of this syllabus may change from time to time. All students will be notified by e-mail of any significant changes.

Lessons in this Course

Click on any lesson below to see the lesson details. If you are a student and logged in, or if the lesson is a sample lesson, you will be able to go to the lesson.

Lesson #1: Know Your Own Biases

Lesson #1: Know Your Own Biases

We're not blank slates. We all bring to the table a lifetime of values, beliefs, and background information that play a big part in how we interpret new information. In addition, our brains are not wired for reason; they're wired for procreation and survival. This results in us taking mental shortcuts to conserve cognitive energy at the expense of reason. This phenomenon is demonstrated through what are known as cognitive biases. In this lesson, we'll go over ten of the most problematic cognitive biases when it comes to consuming information. The reason we're doing this, is because the most effective way to combat our own biases is to be aware of them.
Lesson #2: Know the Source

Lesson #2: Know the Source

People and media sources share information that is entertaining/interesting. Billions of things happen every day that are neither entertaining nor interesting, thus do not make the "news," yet make up our reality. In the game of information, the most entertaining/interesting information wins—not necessarily the true information. Through critical thinking and healthy skepticism, we can focus on what is true and ignore that which is not.
Lesson #3: Know When You Are Being Misled, Deceived, Manipulated, or Outright Lied To

Lesson #3: Know When You Are Being Misled, Deceived, Manipulated, or Outright Lied To

A "lie" is only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg when it comes to things that are not true. Misinformation comes in many forms, and in this lesson, I'll show you how to spot some of the most common ways people are misled, deceived, manipulated, and outright lied to.

About Your Instructor

Bo Bennett, PhD. Bo Bennett, PhD. Bo Bennett's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime." Much of his work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think. His projects include his books, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies, and Year To Success, a full year course in success. Bo has a podcast/blog called "The Dr. Bo Show" at http://www.TheDrBoShow.com where he takes a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to issues that matter with the goal of educating and entertaining.

Bo holds a PhD in social psychology, with a master's degree in general psychology and bachelor's degree in marketing. His complete bio along with current projects can be found at http://www.BoBennett.com.

Course Rating

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Course Information

Self-Evaluated Course Option:

  • 3 lessons
  • 14 videos
  • 9 discussion questions
  • 12 terms and definitions
  • 3 self-evaluated assignments
  • 25 multiple-choice quiz questions
  • upon successful completion of this course, students will receive an authenticated certificate of completion

A total of approximately 1 hours 42 minutes of student learning.


Instructor-Evaluated Course Option:

Everything in the self-evaluated course option, PLUS...

  • 3 instructor-evaluated assignments
  • direct access to the instructor for one-on-one, personalized learning
  • upon successful completion of this course, students will also receive a more personalized letter of achievement that can be added to any resume or CV.

A total of approximately 3 hours of student learning.

Why Take the Instructor-Evaluated Course?
There are three assignments that I will evaluate for you. These allow you to dig into analyzing information deeper and get some real practice.

- Bo Bennett, PhD, Instructor


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