• Duterte has his own ‘reality distortion field’



    First read
    I have a modest theory on why President Duterte commands so much attention and support, nationally and internationally, and why he enjoys unprecedented approval and trust ratings among Filipinos, despite his abusive and profane speech, his often contradictory and erratic statements, and his wild-and-woolly foreign policy.

    Many cannot get at the essence of the Duterte phenomenon, because they keep getting side-tracked by the itch to paint him as a contemporary version of Adolf Hitler, Hugo Chavez, Muammar Qaddaffi, and closer to home, Ferdinand Marcos.

    He is not.

    Jobs and the reality distortion field    
    I think one can do better by placing Duterte instead in the company of leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton, whose exceptional success and magnetism lay in what is now called “a reality distortion field.”

    “Reality distortion field” was coined to describe Steve Jobs and his way of leadership. (RDF) was originally defined as “an aura of charisma, confidence, and persuasion, in which people report it almost impossible to avoid surrendering to the man and following his will when interacting face-to-face. Well—love his politics or hate them— they followed him.

    The term “Reality distortion field” (RDF) was coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe Steve Jobs’s charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project and the many admirers of his work as an innovator and trailblazer in personal computing.

    Later the term was used to refer to perceptions of Jobs’s keynote speeches (or “Stevenotes”) by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products.

    The RDF was said to refer to Jobs’ ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the RDF to appropriate other’s ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.

    Bill Clinton’s charisma and sleaze
    The term has been extended in industry to other managers and leaders who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the market.

    Not surprisingly, RDF has also been used in politics.

    Bill Clinton’s charisma has been called a reality distortion field.

    Writer Michael Ellsberg, who has spent years studying interpersonal persuasion and language (spoken and unspoken), has written that Bill Clinton’s “reality distortion field” is the key to his legendary charm and face-to-face attraction with women.

    A New York Times Magazine profile near the beginning of Clinton’s presidency referred to his facility for “making eye contact so deep that recipients sometimes seem mesmerized. Tabloid rumors aside, Clinton embodies the parallels between the seductions of politics and the seductions of sex. As one Clinton watcher said recently: “It’s not that Clinton seduces women. It’s that he seduces everyone.”

    A post on the celebrity news blog WENN said, “Actress Gillian Anderson has discovered the secret behind former US President Bill Clinton’s sex appeal—lingering eye contact.”

    Anderson (Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files) spoke on Late Night With David Letterman of an encounter she had with Clinton several years earlier: “We all, mostly women, lined up. And when he gets to you, he takes your hand and makes eye contact. After he leaves and he moves on to the next person, he looks back at you and seals the deal. When I got home, I expected to have a message from him, and I didn’t. I bet women across America expect it too.”

    The flaw with Clinton of course is that the charisma turned into sleaze. His otherwise successful two-term presidency was ruined by shabby sexual pursuits, which in the end his RDF could not dissimulate.

    Duterte’s distortion field
    I believe president Duterte has a similar “reality distortion field” with respect to his more outrageous programs and policies. His colleagues and followers also believe in everything he does.

    People wonder why despite the excesses of the drug war, most Filipinos still believe that the drug war is necessary and the killings are justifiable.

    Originally, RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Now, we are seeing the loss of proportion and rationality in the drug war.

    In this column, I theorize that President Duterte has his own RDF, which enables him to transcend his limitations and his gaffes.

    When his candidacy for president was formally launched in November last year, he delivered a tirade that appeared to detonate his candidacy instead of promote it.

    In this tirade, he unleashed many of his egregious vulgarisms:

    1. It was there that he first dropped the offensive remark about wishing to be first to sexually abuse a beautiful Australian missionary who was taken hostage, raped and killed by prison inmates in Davao City.

    2. He called Pope Francis “a son of a whore” for causing a massive traffic gridlock in Manila during his papal visit.

    3. He boasted to the audience that he had two girl friends and a common-law wife who took care of his needs like a tag team, and that Viagra is the ever-reliable help for his proclivities.

    4. He promised the country a bloody presidency if elected, because he would kill at least 100,000 criminals, and throw them into Manila Bay to fatten the fish.

    Hearing and reading about that speech, I thought that he was a caricature of what a presidential candidate should be. Yet the man survived that horrible opening salvo as a candidate. Instead of shuddering, people were entertained by his expletives and his bombast.

    On the evidence, it is clear that Duterte has much charisma; he has an aura and confidence that entice people to listen intently to his words. And he expresses himself with a candor that is both startling and winning.

    His signature war on drugs, which he truly believes is the key to reform and modernization of the Philippines, became his centerpiece program, from which all his other programs and reforms would emanate.

    The Duterte presidency began as a carefully composed portrait of a leader with a serious program of reform.

    The at-first placid demeanor was shattered when the killings in the drug war began to mount, and criticisms began to pour out in the country and pour in from abroad.

    When President Obama deigned to issue a comment reminding about the need to respect human rights and the rule of law in the drug war, Duterte became incensed. He called Obama a son-of-a whore, and denounced America’s colonial record in the Philippines.

    It’s been a mess ever since.

    In the case of Jobs and Clinton, their reality distortion fields distorted reality in a way that made people accept their less attractive policies and qualities.

    In Duterte’s case, his distortion field cannot make attractive the patent brutality of the drug war. It has reached the point where no one can defend the war anymore.

    The tragic part is that in trying to defend the drug war, Duterte took it out on the country’s relations with the US. DU30 foolishly talked of separation from the US, militarily and economically.

    He retracted the hasty statements; but sometimes he has also retracted the retractions.

    Perhaps, the truest thing that can be said is that President Duterte is a leader of his time, a leading example of the tide of populism that has burst upon the world.


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.


    1. let me comment on “son of a whore”. the correct tagalog language equivalent is I guess, “anak ka ng puta”. putang ina equivalent is “mother a whore or whore mother”. in so many columns and reports be it written or broadcast media, it was pointed basically to du30 having said “son of a whore” to particular person including even in this particular column, to the pope and Obama. however, the fact is, even if you review the video, du30 never directly said “son-of-a whore” to both. he just said purely “putang ina” (mother a whore) in general context. he never said “anak ka ng puta Obama” or “anak ka ng puta Pope” which is the exact equivalent of “son-of-a-whore. the worse thing is we Filipinos ourselves reported it wrongly though we should understand it better than the international press. therefore, our journalist themselves make things bad for du30 in particular and the government in general. i feel, these journalists or columnists including yen twisted the facts in purpose. again, a typical example of crab and/or colonial mentality for educated Filipinos.

    2. Roldan Guerrero on

      I know of only one reason and this is, he is not prepared and fit for the Presidency. Head of States must not only know the basics but rather should be properly educated of running a state and knows the challenges surrounding it. A President is more than a diplomat. The highest standards is expected from a president such that barbaric and uncivilized speeches and statements are out of order. His BARUMBADO STYLE is unacceptable, he is not rebuiding a nation but continue destroying it instead. His political exposure as a mayor with minimal achievements does not qualify him for the top post, he is another Aquino version of unprecidented mistake.

    3. What is the reason for the surge of populism? The people have finally come to the realization that the status quo is rigged against them, and if you and FVR think you can defend the unsustainable status quo by bashing Duterte then you two are the most RDF-ed of all. The people have a higher level of awareness now, and they are not going to drop Duterte just because some Amboys are hurt by Digong’s bashing of Uncle Sam. The world is changing, the American Empire is ending, and the the faster one accepts this the less RDF there will be for him.

    4. Roldan Guerrero on

      I know of only one reason and this is, he is not prepared and fit for the Presidency. Head of States must not only know the basics but rather should be properly educated of running a state and knows the challenges surrounding it. A President is more than a diplomat. The highest standards is expected from a president such that barbaric and uncivilized speeches and statements are out of order. His BARUMBADO STYLE is unacceptable, he is not rebuiding a nation but continue destroying it instead. His political exposure as a mayor with minimal achievements does not qualify him for the top post, he another Aquino version of unprecidented mistake.

    5. RDF, for me it means slave mentality. Worshipping your boss/president whether he is morally and legally wrong. It is the absence of critical thinking.

    6. Daniel B. Laurente on

      What Digong is really doing is application of a Prosecutor’s imaginative ability to convince an audience and the judge to overwhelmingly overcome barriers in the prosecution of a criminal.

    7. Your view is too myopic. You only see the warts. It President Duterte achieves like Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton did during their peak, then he will bring a lot of good to our country. You should take off your blinders.

    8. The American likes to say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. But at the same time, they also quote Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick”. Today, the Americans behave like the Mexican cartels who gets their way by offering, “Oro o Plomo” (Gold or Lead). Duterte has boxed himself in because he cannot take the Yankees’ gold as he will fall from grace with the Chinese and Russians. So he can only choose “Lead” and hope he survives the fire fight. Only time will tell. But even if he falls, his courage and principle will be honored and remembered. And as likes saying, “Kapag natapos ko ang 6 years, patay na silang lahat”

    9. Jessie Corrales on

      If you even need a theory to dissect Pres. Duterte, then he truly is a phenomenon. I only thought that theories were exclusively for scientific research and discoveries. Imo Duterte is easy to understand, he’s straightforward and honest inhis dealings, he speaks his mind. But more importantly, he cares for his people and country. That’s all

    10. Thank you Mr. Makabenta for writing this. Ngayon ko lang nalaman ang concept ng Reality Distortion Field. And now that I know about it, I feel I’m better equipped. Once kasi na naging aware ka sa possibility na you’re being RDF-ed you’ll tend to raise your guard & take everything with a grain of salt. The concept also gives a handle on why many Duterte supporters continue to support him despite everything. Your theory certainly put things in perspective.

    11. You are completely wrong when you state about the drug war, “It has reached the point where no one can defend the war anymore.” If you count me and the general public, there are about 85 million Filipinos who will defend it. The criticism of the drug war by the US, was seen as as part of the root problem with the US/PH relationship: The US dictates to the PH. DU30 has corrected that relationship. The master/slave relationship is over.

      • Fritz Comendador on

        True.. and Mr. Makabenta.. you cannot count me in as well.. As i’m fully aware of my choice and with a clear justification of my support to PRRD.. I’m one of the people who will depend it.. and the Approx. 80 Millions ++ strong DDS.. We will uphold and support not the President as an individual but the integrity of our beloved Philippines to restore and protect our next generations of Filipinos!

      • That is where the falsity of your statement lies when you predicted that the “drug war” has reached a point where no one can defend the war anymore.” If you try to compare the many horrible killings related and mostly “spurred” by illegal drugs committed against a wide array of innocent civilians, and most frightening of all is when the crime was committed by a son against his mother, by a father against his daughter, all in the name of the principal culprit – illegal drugs – your prediction that the “drug war” becomes indefensible lost its meaning and appeared hollow in the face of the “unacceptable brutality” committed against a member of a family by a close relative. And the promise of President Digong to stop his “drug war” until the last pusher is arrested or neutralized by the police authorities rings true and many are committed to make it happen until we find peace and stability against the organized criminals connected with “drugs.”

    12. Mr. Makabenta, what is the meaning of the “First Read” (sometimes “First Word”) header that appears in your articles? I am curious about what purpose it serves. I tried asking Google-sensei but found no answer. Thank you.

      • I guess “First Read” is some sort of a “premise” or a “thesis” which the author wants to discuss in length. In technical writing, we usually refer to this as a “background information” to let the audience know what is being discussed or evaluated.

        But this is just my guess. Yen is the only authority to define his terms.

    13. If Duterte avoids saying bad words, then I will say he is a very good orator. He tries to get into your mind and your emotion. When he talks to large crowds, he is never dull and boring. He very seldom reads his notes and look at his eye contact with the crowd. He appears to be a thug, but that makes his followers love him. He is like Asiong Salonga and Nardong Putik roled into one. Most of the time, I do not agree with his statements, sorry to say. I am not into good speaker but into the meat of the speech. The ideas not the dreams, is it doable or is it mission impossible ? Like jet skiing to Scarborough Shoal, do anybody believe that, I am sure some Pilipinos believe that statement.

    14. Our political messiahs thrust as we obsere is trying to dismantle an old political disease known as no difference. Between nationalista from liberal one is like a fat mosquito and tthe other tin ojfunm.l0pp,t0ppppplne, let us rally behind him Rather.thàn member of those who,are trying to crucify him

    15. Murder without due process is never justifiable.
      Calling heads of state and leaders of other soverign nations nasty names is never justifiable or acceptable.

      I think you are seeing the immediate short term benefits from murdering drug pushers and users alike but
      neither should be a death sentence without due process. Killing drug users is just like selling drugs short term benefits but long term diaster.
      China is marching Duterte right into position where they want him to manipulate him, use him, let him pocket some money and reap the bounty from the Philippines. China is also “using” Duterte to unseat US strategic positions.
      From here he looks like a gangster and a meglomanic. He’s as bad or worse then trump.

      As a frequent American visitor I have no desire to return to the Philippines at this time

      • madam, you,re not welcome in our country, good riddance., pls dont meddle in our internal affairs. thank you .

      • Better never visit! your kind is never a loss! A gall to a FOREIGNER talking like having a moral high ground as if knowing exactly what’s happening to our country. The government doesn’t condone murdering its own citizens whether drug addicts or not. Calling a president of a warmongering country with names is more than just. Don’t talk like your country will fight for us. Your lot have used the fat of our land for so many decades and yet we are supposed to be thankful to you? How biyatch can you get.

      • Yap Ms Martha..because by that time or never, if you want to return to PHilippines as a visitor you have to get your visa to be approved. (unlike before…)

      • Jessie Corrales on

        fuck you, then go back to your frickin nigger killin country. You hypocrites, killing here is unacceptable to you but killing unarmed Niggers in your country is ok. Idiot, ass wipe.

      • Please dont return anymore…we dont need your arrogance here…do you still feel that we are your servant and you are our masters???FUCK YOU and go to HELL!!!

      • Martha, you are correct in your statements. But it doesn’t matter. Yen is 100% off on his article, but I give him credit for attempting to explain what is going on. du30 is NO Steve Jobs, he is in fact another Hugh Chavez. The err of the Filipino people towards the US is questionable at best, that is there is very little reasoning behind such. But to the average person on the street they feel the movement and are enjoying their 15 minutes. Eyes are closing to the fact that their president is a mass murderer and he will continue (as all these Dictators do) to be in the Media near daily (think of Trump). In the long run the country will not do well and repression will continue and that is the terrible part of all of these. God Bless the Philippines, and all the wonderful people there. I hope the sunshine returns, but for now the clouds and storm will be caste.

      • All Countries on this planet earth are like different families … in my opinion, no head of a family (or any member of a family for that matter) has the right to interfere with the activities of other families (especially unsolicited advises)… don’t you think so Martha ?

    16. Only few months have passed, yen, let him do the work. Write the column again after 6 years. Then we are all in a better position to judge this president and his administration. We are after all Asians not Americans.

      • I definitely agree with you John !!!
        In the meantime , let the YEN from Japan and the YUAN from China come in … to help our Countrymen who are victimized by the recent typhoon as well as the rehabilitation of the drug users who surrendered to the Government .

      • Agree w/ your comment, John. But PRRD must beware of Yellows. They are well-entrenched, moneyed and powerful ruling group of elite class.

    17. Jobs brought the word iterate to the lexicon. Each new version of an apple product was better than the previous one. Duterte should build upon each success and the leaders who follow him should do the same. It’s the only way we can catch up and raise up our people. Duterte has shown there is not a shortage of talented and honest leaders in the land. We just need to vote them into power

      • You are right D1NONLY , there are a lot of talented and honest Filipinos who are able to lead our Country to a better life … but before we can vote for them … first of all , we have to get rid of the seemingly “more talented” and dishonest moneyed few who are able to rig the election in their favor .
        The problem is , I DO NOT KNOW HOW… have an idea ???

    18. Totally agree on your observation. Like Jobs he gets things done the way he wants it. Like Jobs he won’t take no for an answer. He sets out a vision then lets his people work freely and impatiently waits for results. I see a better future for the country. Now who said Pinoys were bobotantes?

      • I agree with your statements that this guy may be the best president we wii ever have but there is a possibility that he will not finish his term if he creates too many enemies.