Yesterday, Donald Trump met Canadian premier Justin Trudeau. ISRO announced its record-breaking plan to launch 104 space satellites. And Indian tabla maestro Sandeep Das scored a solo Grammy. But which news break set off an internet wildfire? A photo of Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s newborn, Taimur.
Let’s be clear. This wasn’t a widely distributed press release. This wasn’t an Instagram post on an open profile, a public photo op or even an ‘exclusive’ shot in public by a particularly belligerent paparazzo.
This is a photo of a two-month-old child taken off his father’s Whatsapp profile, without permission. And then casually dissected using the kind of language that should make you fear for the future of the human race.
In Keeping up with the Kardashians and following Priyanka’s every waking moment on Instagram, we seem to have forgotten where to draw the line between public life and a shocking breach of privacy. We at Elle are often guilty of this transgression. If this were an episode of FRIENDS, Joey would be yelling “You’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”
But why should Kareena and Saif be accorded any decency, right? They were born with famous last names. They actively seek our eyeballs whenever one of their movies hits the theatres. They get paid crores of rupees to dance on screen and walk on red carpets. Which obviously means we are entitled to intrude into every inch of their lives.
But here’s the thing, Taimur isn’t a celebrity. Being born the son of famous parents doesn’t automatically sentence him to a life of public scrutiny. If you knew your infant child was being cyber-stalked, you’d probably bolt the doors, retreat into the bedroom and call the police.
In the US and UK, many celebrity news outlets have taken a stance on publishing photos of children taken without the parents’ permission. They blur the faces. The argument being obvious, but let’s spell it out anyway. Safety. Paparazzi go to great lengths to get these photos, often putting themselves and their subjects in harm’s way. Even if the photo is surreptitiously shot from across the street, splashing a child’s face across hundreds of news outlets and websites exposes him or her to bullying and harassment (at the very least) and kidnapping and assault on the deadlier end of the spectrum.
If there’s one thing the comments section on any celebrity thread has taught us, it’s that basic human decency is our most rapidly depleting resource.
Cyber-stalking a child, ever so slightly, pushes us over the edge.