As of late, I’ve been pouring thru Apple founder Steve Jobs’ biography, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. I couldn’t help but notice how often Jobs’ colleagues and employees refer to his best/worst trait as being what they refer to as a “reality distortion field,” Jobs’ uncanny ability to believe what he wants to believe no matter whether it’s true or not, and further, to convince others of it as well no matter how far fetched. Polite folk would call this delusion, colloquially it would be called “bullsh—.”
Of course, this is not a new concept, and many people are great at it. But similar to how you learn a new phrase, then suddenly you hear everyone using it all the time, I’ve been on heightened alert for those who also carry Jobs’ greatest virtue and vice. And chile’, they are everywhere, especially in the public eye.
I happened to catch 50 Cent on Oprah’s Next Chapter, and no surprise, he’s a master a creating a reality distortion field, even on Lady O. From the time Winfrey showed up to interview him at his Nana’s home and panned to the pink bedroom where he spent the night before, he was in full-on spin mode. But when Winfrey finally asked him about naming his dog after her—the question I’d been waiting for — my BS detector was damn near off its figurative charts.
“I was looking for real cute names for pets,” 50 explained, offering a charismatic grin. He mentioned he had a cat as well. “Named?” Winfrey asked. 50 flashed another mischevous grin (to Winfrey’s bestie Gayle King who was sitting off screen) before he answered: “Gayle.” Winfrey practically giggled. In the end, she took it for “a compliment whether you meant it to be one or not.”
Incredulously, I looked at CBW, my significant other, the way Ferris Bueller looks at the screen, breaking the fourth wall to address viewers. “Did that just happen?” I asked in disbelief. He was too busy laughing at — not with — Winfrey to respond. Finally, CBW said, “He’s an actor! Fiddy is really an actor!!!”
I stumbled upon another reality distortion field reading online about mega-church leader Creflo Dollar’s explanation to his congregants about what really went down in his house that fateful Friday night when his 15-year-old daughter called the cops on him, claiming he punched her, hit her with a shoe, and choked her. He was arrested after an officer spotted a scratch on the 15 year old’s neck. From the pulpit the following Sunday, Dollar extolled his innocence and explained that the scratch wasn’t what it seemed. “The only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema,” Dollar said. “Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism.”
Again, I won’t claim to have any idea what happened in that house that night, but the far-fetched explanation, the one that his congregants cheered in support, made me tilt my head at the screen. If I was in his pews that Sunday, it seems I would be a minority skeptic. A decade-old scratch that looked like a fresh wound? Eczema?! That’s the best you got, Rev? Um … ok.
Despite Fiddy’s gall, and Dollar’s outrageousness, no one seemed to have the unmitigated gall or the reality distortion affect of Basketball Wives’ favorite hell-raiser Tami Roman on Monday night’s Basketball Wives Reunion show. She was captured on video bullying Kesha Nichols during their trip to Tahiti trip and though millions of people saw her holding Nichols’s purse hostage (ie, theft), Tami unbelievably spun the situation in her favor. Why, she’s no bully. Nichols just isn’t strong, and Roman was holding the purse for safekeeping. Roman was so passionate, so loud and clung to her version of events so fiercely, I felt like I had to watch the show again (I didn’t. That’s time I can’t get back.).
After the show went off, I wasted precious moments wondering if I’d misread something about Nichols (I wasn’t the only one) even if I still knew Roman was dead wrong. (For the record, Nichols did nothing wrong. At all. She just doesn’t know what to do when confronted with crazy, but run, which is a normal reaction.) I took even more time that evening, this more valuably spent, thinking how easy it is to fall for the okey doke and wondering just how many people had been caught up in 50 Cent, Creflo Dollar, and Tami Roman’s distortions.
My guess? A lot.