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Minnich: How to avoid the campaign curse 

We’re coming up on the witching hour — voting day — when we make choices or avoid them and in so doing set courses for the future.

Some people are nervous about making choices. They think that by remaining neutral they can’t make a mistake. Which is mistake number one, because not making a choice is a choice in itself.

Other people don’t want to think about it too much.

Someone said there is an oversupply of opinion and a scarcity of facts.

I hear people complain about too much media coverage of politics. But too much information is not the problem. The problem is too much marketing screed, including the ads that are on your phones, your television screens, your car radio, the internet, and stuffed into your home mailbox every day. All of it directed from the shadows by people manipulating the numbers for an edge in a game of King of the Mountain.

So how is the average citizen supposed to cope with all the noise and still feel good about doing their civic duty and participating in the vote?

Do what good editors do: Start cutting. Get past the sales pitch and the scare tactics.

Don’t fall for the line that “everybody knows … .” And ignore anyone who says you can’t believe “fake news from lame-stream media.” That’s the voice of ignorance seeking company.

Do be particular about your sources. Your best sources for information on national and international issues are on public radio and television. For a shortcut version, look to the front-page reports in established newspapers and the nightly TV news. Facts are found on Page One or on the 6 p.m. news. Opinions are found on the editorial pages and on the 24-hour endless loop of panelists and commentators on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Information, yes, but slanted by the prisms of perception of “experts.”

The internet is a trash pile. Too little good info buried in way too much junk.

News answers the questions about who, what, where, when and how. When you hear comments about “Why?” you’ve likely wandered away from facts into the briar patch of opinion. No commercial newscasts do a better job of sticking mostly to the facts than public radio and television, which are also commercial-free.

Don’t count on one party, Democrat or Republican, to give you truth. The zealots and absolutists will do or say anything to get your vote, so be careful of partisan bleats, mailings, last-minute slanders. The curse of the modern electioneering game is that dark money can hijack the storyline in the last two weeks — the witching hour — and it may not even be your party talking to you.

Take all political literature, including sample ballots from anyone other than the Board of Elections, straight from your mailbox to the recycling bin. Do not read the slick stuff. You have no way of knowing who sent it or what the agenda is. It’s never the whole truth. Lies of omission are still lies. Fancy patriotic names don’t mean a thing, unless you know who is behind it. Some the most patriotic garbage comes from hate groups.

Ignore all robot calls. Hang up or don’t respond to the phone. They’ll even use a familiar name and number on caller ID to get you to bite, so unplug your phone.

In newspapers, check the names of writers of frequent writers of columns or letters to the editor; they have a right to their opinions, but some of them abuse the privilege. It’s not hard to know an agenda — or the depth of thought — if you read enough to be familiar with the names.

If you can sort through the garbage to know enough to be a good citizen, then vote. If you don’t vote, someone with bad intentions or just plain stupidity will take your place.

Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.

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