In Malaysia, #RespectMyPM is backfiring in spectacular fashion

You’ve got to earn it.
You’ve got to earn it.
Image: Reuters/Olivia Harris
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They probably should have seen this coming. A Twitter hashtag meant to show support for Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak—#RespectMyPM—has backfired. Now, it’s being used to criticize the beleaguered politician, who is widely suspected of corruption and has been cracking down on media outlets and opponents who are questioning how as much as $1 billion (paywall) may have wound up in his bank accounts.

Malaysian authorities under Najib have suspended the publishing licenses of print publishers that delved too deep into that question, and blocked access to online publishers—drawing criticism last week from the US state department.

But social media is harder to control. Some Twitter users have made a play on the word “respect,” replacing it with—in their minds—more appropriate words for the prime minister.

Others have noted that respect is earned, not forced:

Some suggested there’s still one way to for Najib to earn their respect:

Others have simply questioned why Najib should be respected in the first place:

Some pointed out that the nation should come first, not its current leader:

Sarcasm was heavy in many of the posts:

Last month Malaysian police patrolled Twitter for drawings of the prime minister as a clown, after one artist’s drawing along that theme drew a warning from authorities—and sparked more such drawings and a hashtag of its own.

The prime minister’s team does not appear to have learned anything from that incident.