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Debunked: No, Eamon Ryan isn't telling radio stations not to play ‘Driving home for Christmas’

A satirical post claiming that the Green Party leader said the song “promotes car use” has duped people on social media.

A NUMBER OF posts shared on social media claim that Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has called on Irish radio stations to avoid playing ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ as the festive favourite “glamourises and promotes car use.”

The claim originated on the Dr Harold News Twitter account, which clearly labels itself a spoof account that shares “FAKE news, MADE-UP quotes, and topical left-wing SATIRE”.

The post racked up hundreds of replies and, despite the caveats listed in the account’s bio, many took the claim seriously.

“You are kidding me… Most people are worried where they will get money for bills, mortgages and food and he is blabbering [sic] on about a xmas song,” one commenter wrote.

Another added: “Enough of this nonsense, do they ever actually listen to themselves! does he actually think everyone is going to run & jump into their cars or buy them specially just because of a song.”    

The claim subsequently got another lease of life on Facebook, where it was shared by accounts that had no satire label and many who interacted with the posts appeared to believe that the information was true.

FB-post-face Source: Facebook

One post racked up over 700 shares and dozens of comments. Facebook fact-checking data available to The Journal showed that it garnered over 30,000 views within days of being posted.

Many of the reactions to the post expressed surprise and anger, with Minister Ryan, the Government, the Green Party and the Irish electorate becoming the focus of criticism. 

ryan-insert-11 A sample of some of the Facebook comments.

Unsurprisingly, there is no primary evidence that Minister Ryan ever took aim at the Chris Rea classic and the Green Party confirmed to The Journal that Ryan “did not make this statement.”  

The person behind the Dr Harold News satire account also confirmed that they had invented the quote as a joke.

“I take many steps to ensure my pages both on Twitter and on Facebook are clearly marked as satire in an effort to ensure people are not inadvertently fooled,” they said.

However, there are some people out there who just seem to believe everything they read on social media, irrespective of the source.

The satirist added that people appear to be more ready to believe outlandish made-up claims attributed to Eamon Ryan than “nearly any other politician” because of the Green Party leader’s previous comments.

“I think having previously proposed the introduction of wolves into the countryside, and having suggested growing salads in window boxes could be the solution to addressing potential Covid food shortages, people are more likely to believe a ridiculous quote attributed to him, than they would if one was to claim the quote came from another politician,” they said.

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It’s not the first time satirical posts published on the Dr Harold News account have been misconstrued as authentic. 

Just last month numerous people were duped by a post that claimed Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said introducing a rent freeze would create a “nightmare scenario” where landlords would be forced to sell their extra houses and low-income people would be able to get on the property ladder.

“I think the reason the Leo Varadkar tweet went viral was because it hit a nerve and captured the zeitgeist,” the account owner said.

“Leo has shown little sympathy for people struggling to pay high rents, so it was believable to some that he could have come out with such an outrageous statement.”

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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