A graphic designer and activist who made TikTok content debunking the claim by Jason Aldean that his controversial music video only uses “real news footage” has been facing a wave of racist and violent hate mail by defenders of his song.
Destinee Stark is among the first who publicly criticized Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” for the song’s lyrics and for featuring a Tennessee courthouse where a Black teenager was lynched in 1927. A former fan of the country star, Stark first heard the song about two weeks ago and then saw the music video.
The more she thought about the words and images, the angrier she became, Stark told NBC News on Monday.
“I get online all the time and I share my, like, opinions online all the time. It’s, you know, something that I do,” Stark said. “And that first video that I made, I posted it at like … 11:30 p.m. … I didn’t think it would go anywhere. And I woke up to like thousands of messages about it.”
Last week Country Music Television, which initially aired the video, pulled it from rotation. But after Aldean defended the music video by stating that “there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage,” Stark said it was easy to prove him wrong
In a TikTok video that’s gotten at least 1.5 million views, Stark found that two of the clips in the video came from stock footage. One showed a woman flipping off police at at labor day event in Germany and another was a commercial stock clip of a molotov cocktail.
“I just think that people have a right to know,” Stark said. “Things like this, they inform politics and it informs how we vote, how we see the world and who we interact with. And I just think that if we’re consuming content that’s not even accurate, that it’s just propaganda. And it’s just fueling people, you know, to commit more violence.”
NBC News also found stock clips of a protest in Montreal, Canada, and a protest in Kyiv, Ukraine. The Montreal clip does not have a date nor does it have context for the cause behind protest.
The Ukraine clip appears to be from a 2013 protest in downtown Kyiv, which was in opposition to the former president’s refusal to sign an agreement that would have aligned the country with the European Union.
A representative for Aldean did not immediately respond to a request for comment from on Monday.
Stark shared screenshots with NBC News of hateful messages she’s received since posting her videos about Aldean’s song, which included racist slurs, fatphobic remarks and death threats.
Stark said she has tagged Aldean on social media, asking him to denounce the hate mail and discourage defenders from engaging in violent, racist rhetoric.
In one message, someone referred to her with two different slurs and threatened to hang Stark in their backyard so people could gather around. She described that particular message as the “worst” of the messages so far.
“They’re trying to defend and say that the song isn’t racist while using racist rhetoric to tear me down, which literally defeats the purpose of their entire argument,” Stark said.
Stark encouraged those people to look inward and really think about why they were so incensed by her videos, because others have sent kinder messages about how her content has made them more aware.
“Even people that were fans of Jason Aldean reached out and were like, ‘You know, I would have been vibing with this song until you pointed all this out’,” Stark said.
“So even though it seems like the trolls and the hate is so much louder, it really is changing things and it’s really changing people’s perspectives,” she added. “And I think that that’s the really important part to focus on too.”