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Internet users vote for Taylor Swift to appear at Allston school for deaf

Singer Taylor Swift is seen in a scene from her new music video "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in this publicity photo released to Reuters August 28, 2012. The video, in which the 22-year-old gets personal about her dating life, will debut on "MTV First: Taylor Swift" on MTV August 30. (REUTERS)

Taylor Swift is making Massachusetts news yet again — but not because of her relationship with Conor Kennedy. This time, the country-pop star is the subject of a campaign cooked up by users of the Web community 4chan.

After hearing about a Papa John’s-sponsored contest that promises to send Swift to perform at whichever school gets the most votes on Face­book, 4chan posters began campaigning to get users to throw their support behind the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a public school in Allston. Last we checked, the local institution had more than 20,000 votes.

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The prank follows the lead of a similar movement cooked up by a Boston Phoenix writer that had Internet pranksters voting to send rapper Pitbull to a Walmart in Alaska. (Pitbull wound up making the long trip last month.)

“The concept is still hilarious, at least to me,” remarked a snarky commenter on a message board on Reddit.

Worth mentioning however is that the campaign evolved into a more generous project by Thursday afternoon. Many 4chan and Reddit users — and people who read about the campaign on Gawker and the website for the Atlantic — have been voting for Horace Mann School for the Deaf because they believe that Swift’s visit would be positive for students.

Another commenter on Reddit remarked, “My wife works all the time with the deaf population. And while I’m always one who’s always down for a good deaf joke (kind of [upsets] my wife) I’m always amazed at what the hearing impaired population can perceive by way of rhythmic vibration. Sure this is meant tongue-in-cheek but I bet she comes up with something amazing to perform to them. Plus she’s a star to kids so I’m sure on some level just her being around is inspiration.”

Another poster wrote, “I wonder if 4chan realized it was actually quite a nice thing to do. . .”

Jeremiah Ford, principal/headmaster at Horace Mann, said he hopes his school wins, no matter the intent of the campaign.

“I could be upset about that, I could get stuck in that anger, but that’s not where we should be in this world. My thing is, we understand what your intent was — shame on you — because you have not been educated. But now we will educate you.” Ford explained that his school has hosted many activities with music and that his students enjoy live performances. Not all students are 100 percent deaf, and others can experience the vibration of sound.

Peter Bailey, associate executive director of the Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, weighed in on the discussion Thursday, adding that many of the K-12 students in his school’s programs are big fans of pop music. “Lady Gaga, I know, is very popular here,” he said.

If Horace Mann continues getting votes, it’ll also get some money. The top five schools in the online contest get $10,000 for their music departments. “We wouldn’t throw that money away,” Ford said, with a laugh. “It would be about enriching everybody’s life, and we would thank those ignorant people for giving us those resources.”

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