Have you heard the expression "it's all smoke and mirrors" and wondered about its meaning and origins? Well, let's see if we can address that as it could be a phrase that you hear and see a lot these days. So much that is playing out around the world is after all, "all smoke and mirrors."
A strict definition of the phrase is "trickery or deception, often in a political context."
The phrase however has its origins in magic; a conjurer on the stage attempting to fool the audience into believing his "trick," would use smoke and mirrors. This would deceive the eye of the beholder and enable the magician to fool the audience. A bit like all politicians around the word do at times, you may say. The "trick" would truly appear to be magic.
In more recent times this phrase has been used to describe politics and, as it is so often called these days, political spin, plus conflicts and war. Whilst this is now common practice, it does make it hard to know just what and who to believe.
Reading a good cross section of reports can help but that is time consuming. Even then, so often views are subjective rather than objective.
Into the pot we also need to add the fact that these days foreign agents often infiltrate countries and organizations in order to manipulate what is happening. More smoke and mirrors.
Prime examples of smoke and mirrors right now are the Korean crisis, Israel and probably Syria. The US and UK are no strangers to this method of deceit. Political leaders these days employ spin doctors to weave a web of intrigue; some would say a web of deceit. After all a clear, honest manifesto would be more appropriate for voters but would it prove as useful to politicians?
American journalist Jimmy Breslin is generally attributed with the modern usage of the phrase. In his "Notes from Impeachment Summer" in 1975 he wrote;
"All political power is primarily an illusion... Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors... If somebody tells you how to look, there can be seen in the smoke great, magnificent shapes, castles and kingdoms, and maybe they can be yours. The ability to create the illusion of power, to use mirrors and blue smoke, is one found in unusual people." Since then the phrase has been adopted by many.
In western elections smoke and mirrors play a huge part, even in democratic countries. Many voters will make their choice based on smoke and mirrors. It will have been the hype and the televised debates which will have impacted on their political choice.
In truth none of this will enable the voter to know what sort of Republican Party leader, prime minister or president the candidate will make.
It is in effect, all smoke and mirrors.