There’s usually a wide gulf between the harrowing stories of Internet bullying and the gentle fairy tales in songs performed by the pop singer Taylor Swift. Fortunately for the students at one Boston high school, an episode that started out as the former — a mean-spirited online prank — recently ended up as the latter — a dream come true — because of a generous intervention by Swift herself.
The incident started when users of the popular websites 4chan and Reddit started a misguided campaign to nominate the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Allston to win a Facebook contest that boasted a grand prize of an in-school concert performed by the popular teenage singer. What made the jokers’ prank “funny” was the assumption that deaf people can’t enjoy live music.
The joke ended up being on the pranksters themselves. Deaf people may not experience concerts the same way people with full hearing do, but they still enjoy the events: Some enjoy the camaraderie of friends, some like the spectacle of big events, and some can hear parts of the music, while others enjoy the vibrations that big speaker systems can emit. A quick online search could have taught the pranksters that.
In the end, Swift and the contest’s sponsors decided to pull Horace Mann out of contention because of the way the school was garnering votes. Instead, Swift and the sponsors, combined with other donors, gave the school a generous consolation prize: $50,000 in cash, plus musical instruments and a ticket for every student to attend Swift’s next show in the area. The move may have been a wise PR move for Swift, but it was also generous — and it delivered a heartening kind of justice amid the wilds of the Internet.