You've all heard the story before. Young, attractive, fish-out-of-water is faced with a terrible situation. Deep in the jungle, facing crocodiles, lions, 12-inch spiders, crazed militiamen brandishing AK-47s. Facing trouble on all sides, and given the option to evacuate, our heroine decides to stay to bring comfort to a helpless HIV positive orphan named Zimba.
The problem with this story, however exciting it may be, is that it never happened. It was an utter fabrication. Recently, an actress named Louise Linton published a memoir called "In Congo's Shadow" which got little publicity... until excerpts were published.
Somehow, someone seemed to overlook the fact that Zambia is online. Zambians and expats alike were outraged at the pure fabrication. It made a mockery of peaceful, safe, civilized Zambia. The hashtag #lintonlies was born out of this outrage. So was a Twitter account under the name of "Zimba."
Pretty soon, half-apologies were issued along the lines of "I'm sorry if someone was offended." Linton's father threw in his $.02 worth (actually less than 2 ngwee worth) and gave his own pathetic response. But the Twitterstorm got worse. As did the Amazon reviews. When the excerpt was published, there were ten reviews, all positive. Very quickly, those reviews were "overshadowed"by the negative, calling her out on her lies. Soon the book itself was listed as "Out of Print."
Articles slamming Linton cropped up all over the internet. It's pretty obvious that she simply wanted to advance her career, and what better way to do so than to show how wonderful she is. But because of her lies, it all backfired.
I suppose "no publicity is bad publicity" but now her name is going to always be associated with #LintonLies.
I know I have been tempted to lie to make myself look better. When I was in college, I played soccer for the Northwestern University Soccer Club. Not the Varsity team, but at the club level. We played small college teams, mostly in the Chicago area. But it was easy to tell people I played for Northwestern University. Technically true. But also intentionally misleading. So I make sure, if someone asks, that I tell them the truth. Like the truth about me playing for a semi-pro soccer team... My friend organized a college indoor soccer tournament, and he invited his former team, the Charlotte Eagles, to come and play. They arrived without a goalkeeper, so I was asked to play with them for the tournament. So (again, technically) I played for a semi-pro team. But to be honest, I wasn't on the team. I suppose I was the "semi" in semi-pro. :-)
The problem is that our lies will always find us out. Whether in real time, like #LintonLies, or in eternity.