September 14, 2010
The Mustache buckles
by Melville House
Thankfully, The Mustache backed down, but here’s a fun thought experiment: let’s say that at least one of the knuckle-draggers cheering on the burning of Korans during the “international burn-a-Koran day” had paused, if briefly, to consider something other than the hate in his heart for Muslims around the world. And what if during that pause, his own faith had been shaken a little bit while staring at the less-than-impressive conflagration and he wondered why burning a few books isn’t all that satisfying. His thoughts might have veered off on a tangent as he got curious about what exactly it takes to burn a book. You know, scientifically. Maybe when he got home he googled “how to burn books.” And chances are, he would’ve come across a recent Slate article by Brian Palmer explaining some of the challenges of burning a book, such as:
If you’re looking to burn a large pile of books in a headline-grabbing conflagration, you probably won’t have time to fan out the pages of each one. But someone who wanted to burn a lot of books could just treat them like firewood. From a combustion perspective, a closed book behaves just like a log. They’re both dense collections of cellulose.
And it goes on:
Why can you burn 100 closed books, but not one by itself? To sustain a fire, you have to get the outside of the book up to ignition temperature and keep it there.
Sounds like a lot of work for a good old-fashioned book burning. Maybe in the end, that’s what really stopped it.
According to a report in The Guardian, Pastor Terry Jones and the incredibly named Dove World Outreach Center were only planning to burn about 20 copies. Yes, 20 copies. Sure, one is bad enough, but where’s the spectacle in that? For a guy who seems drawn to cameras and creating huge fusses, you’d think he would have thought about some of the more mundane but essential pyro-technical issues. (Not missing an opportunity to plug our own book, we wonder what Ray Bradbury may have to say about this whole episode in general, too.) Wouldn’t a sky-high pile of books be much more, um, incendiary?
Perhaps the logistical hurdles and cost of acquiring the number of Korans necessary for such a spectacle was too much for a pastor at a small church in Gainesville, FL. Or maybe the pastor was worried that having enough Korans lying around to make a pile would invite the temptation to read them by his congregation. Hijacking the world’s attention for a couple of weeks was surely a nice stroke to his ego–perhaps that spectacle, and its lasting effects, was reward enough. Whatever the cause of his backing down, one can only imagine the reaction if he had gone through with it (witness the copy cats he’s inspired). And all of this over a book.