The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.
Time travel has been on many minds lately. Or, at least, on mine. Not necessarily the kind that sends you galavanting through the past or leaping into the future, but rather the kind that makes you feel as though you’re stuck in a different time and place. It’s the feeling you get when abortion access in the US is set back to what it was pre-1973, when the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to fight climate change is rolled back to a different time, when Top Gun is once again the biggest movie in the world and your favorite video game features the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And also the feeling you get when, for some reason, RadioShack is dominating the conversation.
OK, so that last one isn’t quite as consequential as the first, but it’s perhaps the one that speaks most to the current moment. Back in 2020, an outfit called Retail Ecommerce Ventures—known for relaunching brands like Pier 1 and Dressbarn—bought much of RadioShack’s assets. Since people no longer needed to drive to a retail store for obscure A/V cables in the age of Amazon, the idea was to turn RadioShack into a “cutting-edge ecommerce company.” To do that, REV transformed the store chain into an entity on the blockchain, launching a cryptocurrency platform called RadioShack Swap and its own token, $RADIO (it currently has close to no value). In an apparent bid to trumpet these efforts, the RadioShack Twitter feed went full-on bro this week.
“Hey @MileyCyrus you up?” read one Monday tweet. “Taking the second half of an edible after feeling nothing from the first half is always a bad idea. This chocolate bar got me out here fighting for my life,” observed another. There were also promises that “any interaction with this tweet will be considered for a chance to win catching these mf radiohands.” Mostly it was the kind of puerile, NSFW humor that makes you think the account had been hacked. Instead, it was a plea for attention—and it worked. Many of the tweets went viral, some got deleted, and as of Thursday, the account was saying, “I got put on Twitter parole for talking about marrying squirters. @elonmusk when we making moves fam?”
Oh boy. Is all of this kind of dumb? Yes. But is it also a sign of the times? Yes. It feels like America’s clock is rewinding, and seeing a stalwart business of the ’80s and ‘90s turned into a crypto brand only puts that more keenly in focus. Everything old is new again—but it’s not improved.
Nostalgia cycles come and go all the time—throwbacks to the ‘90s have been thriving for a while—but they often come with an air of celebration or wistfulness. In the past two years, this has less frequently been the case. Gen Z had fun bringing back emo, but bringing back 50-year-old policies feels like stepping in the wrong wormhole.
On Wednesday, following the layoffs of several popular DJs, a pop/rock contemporary station in Vancouver played an edited version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” on repeat for more than 10 hours. When folks called in to request other songs, they were reportedly ignored. As word about the KiSS Radio stunt spread, it looked as though the Rage marathon was an act of rebellion against layoffs. But on Thursday morning, the Vancouver Sun reported that it might have just been a publicity stunt—an iconic protest song used to drum up listeners. Or, in another dimension, a beloved electronics store posting wild tweets.