Amid the supply-chain issues and shortages that Covid wrought, the only asset Americans seemed capable of generating was an avalanche of online hot takes and armchair expertise. However, as most turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent or attempt a last grasp at control over their lives, Robby Starbuck was harnessing the power of social media into actual action. Best known for helming music videos for Snoop Dogg, Gucci Mane, Yellowcard, and Megadeath among others, the Cuban-America Starbuck risked his career and Hollywood status to speak up. After relocating his family to the Franklin area from Los Angeles in 2019, Starbuck mobilized when the Tennessee values he hoped to instill in his children came under attack in the form of mask mandates, lockdowns, and other sundry Covid tyrannies. When his children were forced to mask, Starbuck did not comply, taking them out of the classroom and speaking truth to petty power at school board meetings. “Right now, we really need people who can take arrows,” Starbuck said.
Starbuck’s presence on Twitter and Instagram rose to such an extent he felt compelled to challenge longterm 5th District Rep. and brother of Nashville’s mayor Jim Cooper for his U.S. House Seat in the days before the MAGA scramble that exploded when redistricting led the Tweedledee to Mayor Cooper’s Tweedledum not to seek reelection. Less than a week after Starbuck announced his candidacy, Twitter shadowbanned him, a move Starbuck said shows the app’s role in swinging elections, which is why going after Big Tech is a cornerstone of his platform. Undeterred, Starbuck stayed on point, making the forced masking of children and termination of unvaccinated employees his other pet issues. In the process, he attracted attention from national press outlets, including Newsmax, Salon, and the Daily Wire in addition to editorials excoriating him in The Tennessean by past-their-prime Vanderbilt professors hellbent on giving long-winded history lessons that ultimately just demonstrated the effectiveness of Starbuck’s messaging.
Though the Tennessee GOP’s recent actions have put his future on the ballot in question, Starbuck proved that he is an online force to be reckoned with whether taking aim at local government hacks or self deprecatingly talking about his man bun. Regardless of his congressional bid’s future, Starbuck has achieved a second act as a towering figure in conservative media who boasts a Bernielike fervor among millennials and Gen-z with the primary goal of, as Starbuck said, to “Normalize being normal again.”