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People Wonder: 'If They Gunned Me Down,' What Photo Would Media Use?

The use of different photos to portray shooting victim Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Saturday, prompted an interesting phenomenon on Twitter Monday: Users are posting "dueling" photos of themselves – one where the subject looks wholesome, and another where the same person might look like a troublemaker – with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

Behind the trend is the question of which photo the media would seize upon, if the posters had a run-in with police. For some, it's another way this episode calls to mind the shooting death of Trayvon Martin – and the various photos usedto portray both the teenager and his killer, George Zimmerman.

As we reported earlier today, the killing of the unarmed Brown, 18, on the outskirts of St. Louis has prompted protests and prayer vigils — and a march that turned violent Sunday night.

On Sunday afternoon, an Atlanta man tweeted two photos with the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag, showing himself in a Marines uniform in one image and wearing a black cap and making a rude gesture in another.

From the BBC:

"The hashtag has proved wildly popular and been used more than 100,000 times in the last 24 hours. "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tweets should be required reading in every journalism class in America," said one tweeter."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.