The Un-Ethicist

Shortly after Xmas, I was astonished to get this email:

Dear Mr. Champion:

Randy’s at it again. Every time our family gets together for the holidays, not only does my older brother go on and on about the ethical way to carve a turkey, but the little fucker can’t stop going on about his lucrative Times and NPR gigs. I’m sick and tired of being the odd sibling out. I’m sick and tired of introducing myself as “Randy’s younger brother” at cocktail parties, only to have these people gloss over my fine haircut and unusual eating habits. What’s a younger brother to do?


Miguel Cohen

I hadn’t heard of Miguel Cohen before, but I could sympathize with his concerns. I put two and two together and realized that he was actually Randy Cohen’s brother. We had a few email volleys. And I learned that Miguel, beyond having a few “unique” views on life, is also quite an interesting writer. I asked Miguel if he was interested in having a regular place here on Sunday. And he pitched me on an idea that was questionable, but nevertheless fair. He plans to answer the same questions pitched to Randy.


Hey, R.P., get with the fucking program! Those student loan companies are rapacious vultures. No less a benign authority than David Sedaris says so. Since it’s illegal to kick those greedy bastards in the teeth, or to cut off the heads of their roan ponies and make them offers they can’t refuse so they can stop sending those “consolidated” forms to you, what better way to get back at them than mining this 9/11 thing for all its wortht?

Making money off tragedies or freak occurrences is a grand American tradition that goes back to P.T. Barnum and spans out, more recently, to Jerry Bruckheimer with that stupid Pearl Harbor film that lots of people paid ten bucks to see. The plain truth is that there are a lot of dumbfucks out there who will pay big bucks for this kind of memorabilia. And, besides, it’s not as if you’re auctioning off Nazi china, or some other memento mori from a fascist regime. (Then again, the way things are going, and judging by the way my bourgeois brother keeps his complacent trap silent on politics, and all of these paranoid emails I keep getting from Conspiracy Nation, it may end up that way.)

Even so, sell the motherfucker. Get some boob to pay for it, preferably to someone employed by Sallie Mae, and keep the sale relatively anonymous, if you’re concerned about this thing becoming public. In the grand scheme of things, even if it does become public knowledge that you sold this ticket, people will judge you by the collective scope of your actions. And who knows? Maybe years from now, when this tragedy isn’t being exploited by the Republican National Convention, you’ll have a funny yarn to tell your grandkids.

You’ll probably be accused of dishonoring the dead, but keep in mind that the 9/11 widows and widowers have been given more money than you’ll probably ever make in a year. And after those limitless Portraits of Grief that ran forever in my bro’s paper, they’ve had more than enough attention. Meanwhile, where are you, R.P.? You’re probably working some job you’re overqualified for, wrestling with all those damn student loans.

Sell the sucker now while it’s a hot item. And if your friends disown you, you just tell them Miguel says it was okay. And if they don’t like it, I’ll kick their teeth in.


  1. happy new year

    2003 time capsules -The Critics Critiqued: Their nastiest insults, most insightful reviews, and oddest fixations this year. -Fimoculous names his

  2. […] [EDITOR’S NOTE: Miguel Cohen, who may or may not be the brother of Randy “The Ethicist” Cohen (he has yet to submit to a blood test), once appeared on these pages with a series of columns known as “The Un-Ethicist.” He returned months later and made two efforts to summarize James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s been a year since we last heard from Miguel. Until last week, when Miguel confessed to me that after a night out that he can barely remember, he had accidentally signed up for the Peace Corps and had spent several months in Uganda trying to get out of his professional obligations and return to the United States. When we spoke on the phone, Miguel told me that consciously thinking about Joyce had pretty much decimated his ability to read any books, let alone make a measured life choice. I suggested that he take up movie reviewing, since I had purportedly given up on current films. When Miguel learned that an NC-17 film had been released featuring real actors performing real sex, Miguel jumped at the chance to weigh in. What follows is his review.] […]

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