Why Do We Want Revenge?

Thane Rosenbaum in The Tablet, April 16, 2013

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In the wake of horrific crimes, there is a mantra from politicians, lawyers, and victims: They don’t want revenge, they say; they just want justice. Thane Rosenbaum, a novelist, essayist, and professor at Fordham Law School, says a distinction between the two is both disingenuous and misguided. In his new book, Payback: The Case for Revenge, Rosenbaum argues that the modern American judicial system in fact needs an injection of Old-Testament-style vengeance. From the killing of Osama Bin Laden to popular films like Munich and Braveheart, Rosenbaum highlights the contradiction between our desire for vengeance and our public disavowal of that desire. In a conversation with Tablet Magazine’s Bari Weiss, he made his case. [Running time: 23:42.]