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Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception.
More generally, "smoke and mirrors" may refer to any sort of presentation by which the audience is intended to be deceived, such as an attempt to fool a prospective client into thinking that one has capabilities necessary to deliver a product in question.
Trickery or deception, often in a political context.
This expression alludes to the performances of stage conjurers who use actual smoke and mirrors to deceive the audience. The figurative use that is now more common refers to the obscuring or embellishing of the truth that is employed by spin doctors and the like in order to deceive the general public. This later usage comes from the writings of the American journalist Jimmy Breslin. In his Notes from Impeachment Summer, 1975, Breslin twice refers to smoke and mirrors being used in the US political scene: