Smoke and mirrors

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Smoke and mirrors means obscuring the truth, elaborate deception, trickery. Smoke and mirrors is often used in describing political obfuscation, and sometimes the machinations of big business. The phrase smoke and mirrors echoes the tools magicians use in elaborate stage illusions. The idea was coined by American newspaperman, Jimmy Breslin in his book Notes from Impeachment Summer, published in 1975. The book deals with the Watergate scandal. The pertinent sentence: “All political power is primarily an illusion… Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors...” In popular parlance, the idea was abbreviated into the phrase smoke and mirrors.


But a decline in investment return from 7 percent to 5 percent doesn’t mean the city has to come up with the difference, Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff, said. “It’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.” (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

There has been economic growth, of course, but there have also been smoke and mirrors. (The South China Morning Post)

A radical overhaul that pledges to hand over millions of pounds to Cambridge’s local authorities has been branded “smoke and mirrors”. (The Cambridge News)

It looks like a smoke and mirrors job to me, on a par with Cameron’s conference speech, in which he promised a war on poverty, while at the same time his government is implementing measures that will push another 200,000 people into poverty. (The Bolton News)

Despite a 60-win season and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks are still widely perceived to be smoke and mirrors due to their lack of traditional star power. (Sports Illustrated)

Welcome to the Washington, D.C., hall of smoke and mirrors, where, to paraphrase George Orwell, all inflation is equal, but “government measured inflation” penalizes some more than others. (The Columbian)