Being popular… is it a good thing?

Bad news sell… or a laughing matter does.

On Tuesday, Malaysia’s Information, Communication and Culture Minister gained celebrity status on Twitter, and here’s why.

While the world is focused on the misfortune and issues in Haiti, Malaysia had its own share of the limelight at the start of 2010. We made news with our recent torching and vandalising of churches following a court ruling that allowed Catholic publication, The Herald, to use the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God.

In the spate of events, a student was charged for posting a church attack hoax on Facebook — he was charged with threatening public safety in relation to a comment he posted about the recent attacks on churches.

Amidst all this clamour, Malaysia’s Information, Communication and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, had stepped forward to advise Malaysians, especially Muslims, against being totally immersed in the Internet culture, especially Facebook and Twitter.

In recent news reports, he said that facilities such as the Internet could not be accepted wholly because it was a form of business introduced by the West and “Malaysians were just users”. Datuk Seri Dr Rais was quoted as saying that when using such facilities, the people must upkeep the values taught by Islam, Buddhism or Christianity to maintain our culture.

Following this. the local blogosphere and twittersphere were astir with comments about what he said. Twitter-ers have started making jokes about him being too old and regressive-minded, and have made #yorais a trending topic on Tuesday (moving up from no.8 to no.4 within the hour I was writing this). Thanks to the hashtag creator, too.

I was trying hard not to ROTF in stitches reading tweets about “Rais Yatim is so ancient, he…”

Now, I wonder how he (and the government) is going to influence the people to resist (being totally immersed) the powerful allure of Facebook and Twitter (and ultimately the Internet). This is especially when Pikom — the National Information and Communications Technology Association of Malaysia, expects the Internet penetration in Malaysia to grow between 10% and 20% this year, and broadband penetration to reach 50% from the current 32%.