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LA Weekly is acting really strange on Instagram – ANITH
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LA Weekly is acting really strange on Instagram

LA Weekly is acting really strange on Instagram

It is highly unusual for a publication to wade into any sort of issues debate on social media.

Image: bubaone/Getty Images

Across the country over the past year, corporations have gobbled up prominent alt-weekly and local publications, only to either tear them down to the studs, or totally destroy them. 

In Los Angeles, former LA Weekly staffers think that a mysterious shell company went a step further. The staffers theorize that it purchased the traditionally liberal and progressive LA Weekly, only to gut, then reincarnate it, in order to promote the business interests and conservative agenda of its (partially still anonymous) owners — most of whom have deep ties with the Republican Party.

Now, a series of strange Instagram comments, and an edited Instagram caption, appear to back up the stance of the former staffers. In the wake of a deadly hostage situation at a grocery store in Los Angeles, LA Weekly’s Instagram accounts used the Instagram comments section to share arguments in support of guns and echo sentiments about PC language and media bias.

Music writer, former LA Weekly employee, and one of the leading members of the #BoycottLAWeekly movement, Jeff Weiss, spotted the comments on the magazine’s photo of the memorial to the shooting victim, and posted them to Twitter.

“The only surprise regarding LA Weekly parroting the NRA party line is that it took them this long to completely reveal their true nature,” Weiss told Mashable. “In a town where two separate insurrections, sparked by police brutality, have torn the city asunder, the Weekly’s comments are not only grotesque on a moral and humanitarian level, they show a complete disregard for the history of Los Angeles – a city that almost none of the owners have a legitimate connection to (at least the ones they’ve revealed).”

The LA Weekly both invited debate in its caption, and engaged directly with readers in the Instagram comment section.

“A gun in itself is just another tool which can be used for either protective and destructive ends, it has no motive until one is placed upon it,” LA Weekly‘s Instagram account writes in a comment to a reader.

Mashable has reached out to LA Weekly to learn more about its social media presence, and will update this story if and when we here more.

Forget the gun control debate for a second. Publications often express partisan opinions in print, but it is not common practice for a publication to argue with readers in the comment sections of social media platforms. If anything, a story’s particular author may engage — but it is extremely unusual for a brand itself to weigh in on any sort of debate.

Now, in this issue, it is absolutely gobsmacking that a brand would decide to enter the gun control debate… on Instagram…. apparently taking a side. The account’s comments echo familiar messages perpetuated by gun ownership advocates, such as the idea that people, not guns, are to blame, and that people are going to buy guns no matter what, so they might as well be legal.

“It seemed really biased and unprofessional,” said Instagram user @paulydavid1, who engaged in the debate with LA Weekly. 

In the comments, the LA Weekly account says that it is “just playing devil’s advocate” and attempting to “stir the pot.” Perhaps, instead of an attempt to push any particular agenda, the comments could all be part of a social media strategy that’s trying to capitalize on the ability of social media to inspire flame wars, thus elevating posts in newsfeeds. The LA Weekly post does include both the hashtags #gunskillpeople and #peoplekillpeople in the caption. 

However, screenshots show that the only hashtag that appeared on the original post was #peoplekillpeople. According to Instagram users involved in the debate, LA Weekly edited the original post to include the “#gunskillpeople” hashtag only after people began to accuse the publication of bias in the comments. LA Weekly said in its comments that the #peoplekillpeople hashtag is not affiliated with the NRA.

The original caption.

The original caption.

Image: screenshot: @paulydavid1/instagram

The edited caption

The edited caption

Image: screenshot: Rachel kraus/instagram

Despite the caption editing, if you do see this as a “social media strategy,” not an attempt to push a conservative agenda, the rhetoric advocating for “debate” and bemoaning the silencing of some opinions echoes many of the Trumpian claims about one-sided media bias and complaints about PC-language.

“Sure, we can at any time just post something generic and neutral but that wouldn’t accomplish anything,” LA Weekly writes to one Instagram commenter.

What exactly are you trying to accomplish, LA Weekly? Thanks to your Instagram, the answer to that question might have just gotten clearer — and scarier.

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Anith Gopal
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