My old radio consultant Des was the best of the best, he was a great people person. He was like the old time-travelling medicine man preaching about his miraculous all-ailments remedy from the back of his chuck wagon.

Des was great at selling an idea, and brilliant at taking bullsh*t and making it look like an award winning sculpture titled "Angus Expresses Himself in the Colour Brown".

He was so clever at dispensing ideas, but more than that, he would explain how to spin things and create magic using zero budget and a microphone. He introduced me to the idea of "smoke and mirrors". He taught me the magic of illusionists. He taught me that you can make anything seem like something with the right words, sound effects and pizzazz. (I spent 10 minutes trying to spell pizzazz. My phone kept wanting to make it "pizzas". I do not use pizzas in my smoke and mirrors routine. Plenty of pizzazz though).

The key to making people listen, stay listening, do what you want or "quick, look over there" is to create an illusion. Or a diversion. Create a diversion? Brilliant! Brilliant Mr Politician! Brilliant political Brain Trust! You smoke and mirrored us. You created a brilliant, ludicrously unnecessary diversion.


I've written before about the extraneous palaver (my phone tried to make that "pavlova") we went through to choose a flag. It was so ridiculously fluffy and artsy-fartsy. I still strongly believe someone (probably Ritchie McCaw) should have appeared on TV and announced:

"We're changing the flag to a black one with a silver fern, ya know, like the All Blacks. Hope ya don't mind. We know you'll get used to it. Cheers and let's have a beer in celebration. Excellent. Good on ya. Too right."

End of story. Some people would have b*tched and moaned but it would have been easy, cheap and painless. The flag already exists and, given a few years, all protestors would have died off.

But no, they turned the flag debate in to giant loud parade of flag ideas, committees, committees on committees, referendums and more bloody referendums. We were drowned in advertising, media releases, news stories and general all purpose flag propaganda. All anyone could talk about, or argue about, was the flag. Smoke and mirrors, ladies and gentlemen, smoke and mirrors.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle...

Politicians danced in back rooms as the TPPA was signed off. The what? The TPPA. Who? What? Where? What? Yes, as we all had our gaze forced to scan pages and pages of pretty, weird, and pretty weird designs for flags, and as we um-ed and aah-ed over the flag who-ha, we sold our soul to a world of capitalists.

I have nothing at all against capitalists, but I'm slightly annoyed that I got smoke and mirrored into not noticing that a giant, hugely impacting trade deal got signed while we were looking at a bunch of dumb flags.

In the end we chose not to get all crazy and revolt. Instead we stood firm and held on tightly to our good old faithful flag.

Flags! Nice smoke and mirrors guys. Nice fluttering freaking "flaggy" smoke and mirrors. The truth has now unfurled (the double entendre noted) and I'm feeling a bit dumb and a bit duped. In the end I got all smoked out with giant, colourful mirrors.

Naughty, clever politicians...