Burning Down My Master's Publishing House

"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.

This week, a man named Sebastian writes from Brooklyn (Bushwick, one assumes) with a Pesci-related real estate question, and if a journalist lies in an article that no one will ever read, does it waste our time?

After I put a deposit on an apartment, I learned that housing groups labeled the owner 'New York's Most Abusive Landlord' for using rough tactics like cutting off water and heat to get rid of rent-controlled tenants. I find these tactics immoral, but I wouldn't face them: I'd be paying much more for a renovated apartment. Is it ethical to take the place? — SEBASTIAN, BROOKLYN

In certain instances, like when you get a throat infection and have to go to the fucking emergency room because you don't have a primary care physician and you wait for your antibiotics next to a guy who is clearly suffering from some kind of alcohol poisoning with his head lolling back on his neck like a sack of dirty laundry and his face is all scraped up and his ankles, somewhat mysteriously, handcuffed together while you're choking on your own uvula which is intensely swollen like you're a shitty refugee in some kind of third world country living with this bullshit poor person's disease because you've got to be kidding with this God (although it also happens to be what killed George Washington, so I guess I win), Hollywood cannot help you. This, luckily, is not one of those instances. Here, not only can Hollywood help you, it's been helping you since 1991.

Burning Down My Master's Publishing House

Surely I don't need to remind you of the tagline for the hit film, The Super, starring "America's Funnyman" Joe Pesci, but I will. "The judge sentenced slumlord Louie Kritski to six months in his own building. He would have been better off in jail." Hahahaha. Right? Oh my God, poetic justice (not to be confused with Poetic Justice, the moving 1993 John Singleton drama starring Janet Jackson.)

The point is, and for once my colleague Randy Cohen and I almost agree*, if you really want to change things, you should go to law school, clerk for a Supreme Court Justice for the first year out of school, then work for a large law firm doing socially conscious pro bono work or criminal prosecution while simultaneously working the cocktail party circuit to garner influence among your local aldermen and state legislators until you can work your way onto the short list for a judgeship, so that when you do finally take the bench, you can send your landlord to live in one of his apartments for a year and then be like HOW DOES IT FEEL, JOE PESCI? And he will be like, it's 2023, Joe Pesci has been dead for almost a decade, and you will be like YOU'RE OUT OF ORDER I REST MY CASE LAW LAW LAW.

Bonus Pro-Tip: While you're in law school, you'll probably drop one of your final exams down a sewer grate into the hands of an irascible homeless man who has built a tiny bum's paradise in the basement of the library who will hold the paper hostage, relinquishing one page per day that you provide him with food and shelter. Unethicist, what do I do? Don't worry. Hollywood to the rescue.



Burning Down My Master's Publishing House

I work at a newspaper. At a screening of a filmed version of a Metropolitan Opera performance, I saw a colleague there to review it. My colleague left at intermission but reviewed it anyway. Should I alert my bosses? — NAME WITHHELD, SINGAPORE

Relax, Jayson Blair. More people read the Gawker book than your Singapore Picayune's review of a filmed version of a Metropolitan Opera performance. And NO ONE read the Gawker book.