An ugly baby row

The cuteness quotient of babies may be in the eye of the beholder, but there is no objectivity in judging the crassness of mean mums.

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The internet allows many of us to act like louts in ways we wouldn't dream of in normal social interactions. Anger stalks online forums in almost total anonymity, but in a recent argument, the identity of the culprits was all-too clear: mums gone mad with baby envy.

Last week, a "cutest baby" contest, hosted by the Australian clothing company Bonds, showed off pictures of infants mugging for the cameras. A bit of harmless fun, you would think, or maybe even the first step to a career in modelling. And then the spirit of competition reared its ugly little head.

After a technical glitch cancelled some votes, the cooing over adorable bundles of joy quickly turned raucous. One child was called an "ugly duckling"; another was said to have a face "only a mother could love". The last semblance of class was thrown overboard when one baby was subjected to borderline racist abuse.

We withhold judgement on the cuteness quotients of these particular infants, although there does seem to be a danger they will turn into mean-spirited little clones of their parents. This contest, it seems, wasn't about babies at all, but instead ranked the uncharitable natures of their mums.