“I hope the reader of a later age will pardon me for detaining him with persons of whom he has never heard.” —Schopenhauer
If it’s true, as some people say, that one’s name, like character, determines one’s destiny, then perhaps the aptly named Nimrod Reitman was doomed to live a foolish life from the beginning. “In Hebrew and Christian tradition,” Wikipedia informs us, “Nimrod is considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel….” Like his namesake who is believed to have led that unfortunate project, Nimrod Reitman is a devotee of exceedingly ambitious nonsense, and like many an ambitious and goal-oriented scholarly cant-peddler, he was groomed by the most distinguished of asses.
For Reitman was the student of Avital Ronell herself. Ronell teaches humanities at NYU and—oh rank of ranks!—is the Jacques Derrida Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School. Reitman was also her friend. Worst of all, perhaps, he may have been her victim. Writing in Washington Square News, NYU’s independent student newspaper, a trio of journalists—Jemima McEvoy, Sayer Devlin, and Kristina Hayhurst; two women and a man of yellow, happily!—report:
Ronell—a leading feminist scholar—was Reitman’s doctoral advisor…. [He] alleges that over the course of three years, starting in the spring of 2012, the professor nonconsensually touched his body and kissed his cheeks and lips on many occasions. On one occasion before he officially began his doctorate program, Reitman alleged that in Ronell’s apartment in Paris, she “…touched his crotch over his clothes, with her buttocks, by pushing her body into his.” Among descriptions of similar encounters, he said Ronell made him lie in her bed, refused to work with him if he did not reciprocate and emailed and called him constantly.
Reitman also alleged that Ronell stalked him, sexually assaulted him and retaliated against Reitman by negatively impacting his professional career. NYU’s report did not find Sufficient Evidence to deem Professor Ronell guilty of those claims, according to the investigation report that follows the complaint Reitman filed in 2017, two years after graduating.
However, the investigation did find sufficient evidence for inappropriate verbal contact, such as “inappropriate” texts to Reitman over the three-year period that called him her “baby love angel” and said “I wish I could kidnap you,” through dozens of emails and some voicemails from Ronell.
The report lists 44 other similar statements sent by Ronell to Reitmen, including “now let’s cuddle like cubs,” and “time for your midday kiss. My image during meditation: we’re on the sofa, your head on my lap, stroking your forehead, playing softly with your hair, soothing you, headache gone. Yes?”
No! cries the delicate Reitman, nonconsenting since Ronell is about as attractive as a rotten prune (indeed, she even looks like one). But make some popcorn, my dear readers, because the story gets better still. “Reitman…has a husband,” says our diverse journalistic trio, “and Ronell…identifies as queer.” Ah, one day the whole bunch shall have their own reality television show, let’s hope.
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