One of the top stories to hit the blogosphere in 2012 was that of Martha Payne, the 9 year old author of a widely read blog on the politically sensitive subject of school dinners. The blog had originally started as part of a school-based project to raise £7,000 for a school meals programme in Malawi.
In June, an ill-advised attempt by Bute and Argyle Council to block Martha’s blogging activities backfired spectacularly in the face of overwhelming online opposition. By the end of the day, the Council had backed off, the blog was back in action and Martha’s Just Giving page had hit the £30,000 mark (at the time of writing, over £128,000 has been donated).
Like the tale of the girl on the bus, this, too, was a cracking story with a satisfyingly innocent heroine and a satisfyingly wicked villain. Free speech and fair comment were defended and, in a new take on the fairy tale banqueting scene, 13,000 Malawian children were fed for a year.
In traditional fairy tales, the powerless victim generally depends on the benevolent and transformative exercise of power and, frequently, wealth by those who possess it. This is where Martha’s tale parts company with tradition, because this time the power didn’t come from a supernaturally privileged fairy godmother or a politically powerful prince: it came from thousands of people who took to their keyboards to denounce and shame the bullies.