Ned Kelly post depicts German communist philosopher Friedrich Engels

FactCheck July 26, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from May 7, 2019 that features an image alleged to be of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly. The post states that Ned Kelly “had the spirit that Australians needs today”. 

This Facebook post from May 7, 2019 does not feature Ned Kelly. The image is of German communist philosopher Friedrich Engels who died 10 years after the famous Australian bushranger.

The post had been shared over 25,000 times and attracted over 740 comments and 640 reactions.  Many of the comments argued whether Ned Kelly was a villain or a hero, while many other comments cast doubt on the photo.   

The Analysis

According to the National Museum of Australia (NMA) Ned Kelly was a bushranger who was born around 1855 the eldest son of eight children to Irish parents. His father John was a convict who’d been transported to Australia for stealing pigs and his mother Ellen was a migrant.

The NMA states Ned Kelly grew up experiencing firsthand the prejudice of the Victorian police. Aged 16, he served three years in prison in relation to a horse theft. On his release he formed the Kelly Gang which included his brother Dan and friends Joseph Byrne and Steve Hart. All four had criminal records. The Kelly Gang were outlawed in 1878 after robbing banks and killing Victorian police in a shootout.  Police captured Ned Kelly and the other three gang members were killed in a famous 1880 siege at Glenrowan, a small country Victorian town, where they wore heavy body armour. Ned was tried and executed aged 25 in Melbourne in November, 1880. Despite their crimes, the NMA states the Kelly Gang became Australian folklore heroes for their stand against corrupt officials.

The real Ned Kelly. The only traits Mr Kelly and Mr Engels appear to have shared were that they were both radicals and had bushy beards.

The photograph in the May 7, 2019 Facebook post shows a man who looks much older than 25, the age Ned Kelly was hanged.

AAP FactCheck found the photo published on Facebook was of the famous German socialist philosopher Friedrich Engels, who collaborated with Karl Marx to create communism and co-authored with Marx The Communist Manifesto published in 1848. 

According to the British Library The Communist Manifesto formed the basis for the modern communist movement, arguing that capitalism would inevitably self-destruct and be replaced by socialism and ultimately communism. 

Mr Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx’s death. He was born in (former Prussia) Germany in 1820, 35 years before Ned Kelly was born and died in 1895, 10 years after Mr Kelly’s death. 

The only traits Mr Kelly and Mr Engels appear to have shared were that they were both radicals and had similar facial hair and bushy beards.

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. 

  • False –  The Facebook post is false

Updated Monday, January 31, 2022 13:40 AEDT: Clarifies wording about charge for which Kelly was imprisoned at 16.

First published Friday July 26, 2019 12:25 AEST

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