Donald Trump made news the other day when he skipped the latest Republican Debate to hold a special event on his own for veterans. The event was held as a fundraiser which was broadcast on CNN and MSNBC as counter-programming to the Republican Debate on Fox News. During the course of the broadcast, Trump announced that he had received a special donation of over $1 million dollars from one Ike Permutter, the CEO of Marvel Comics.
To say this caused a storm of controversy would be an understatement. One of my favorite Marvel writers, G. Willow Wilson, the creator of the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, as well as a Muslim, was stunned when she found out about the donation. It’s understandable. How could someone in her position, a prominent Muslim artist responsible for the creation of a character that she feels is the antithesis of everything the candidate in question supports be comfortable with this news? To add on top of that her employer is now publicly announcing financial contributions which she perceives as supporting that candidate. On the flip side, I have to ask myself as a fan of Marvel Comics, how I can continue to support a company that has its CEO financially support a candidate who, I believe if elected to office will bring about so much freaking hatred towards an entire culture of people?
Where to begin. First off, the fact is Ike Perlmutter has every right to financially support whatever political candidate he wants. That is a fact whether we like it or not. We live in a country that allows us the freedom to support the politics of anyone we want, regardless if other people believe they are reprehensible. Yet that does beg the question of whether it makes financial sense for a major CEO to announce his political donations or beliefs, no matter what side of the aisle they fall. I argue that it doesn’t make sense. As an owner of a company, you serve your customers. You do not choose the customers that frequent your business. There would be a lot of bankrupt businesses out there if people tried to pick and choose the customers that tried to financially support them. Why potentially alienate potential customers by announcing your beliefs? I don’t care if a major CEO announced his support for Bernie Sanders, a CEO has to think about their business first and foremost before their personal beliefs.
Second, we as customers have every right to take our business elsewhere. The problem with that though is artists and creators, like the great G. Willow Wilson, will feel the ultimate brunt of our financial boycott which ends up helping no one. Ike Perlmutter, like any other corporate CEO, has his hands in many pies. If the business at Marvel were to take a hit, I believe the effect on his bank account would be negligible at best.
So what do we do? As G. Willow Wilson admitted herself on her Tumblr, it really is a catch-22 on our parts. We’re damned if we do or damned if we don’t in this matter. As she said we should ultimately follow our conscious. If the thought of a major CEO spending dollars on who I believe is a bigoted blowhard like Donald Trump is enough to to make you take your money elsewhere, you are doing the right thing. Yet by doing that, you’re taking money from the hands of people creating content that one, flies in the face of the politics of hatred that I believe Donald Trump wants to support and two, you’re making a company like Marvel think twice about creating content that can ultimately help open people’s eyes on matters like bigotry.
This is a complicated issue. We live in a complicated world. From what research I’ve done on Mr. Perlmutter, I’ve discovered he was born and raised in Israel. He served in the Six Day War for Israel in 1967. His views on Muslims are probably going to be different from mine due to where in the world he grew up. As I stated from the outset, he is more than entitled to whatever beliefs he has regardless of whether I agree with them or not. I am not here to state up or down whether I think he is wrong or not because at the end of the day we are all entitled to our opinion. What I do think I have the right to comment on is the incredible stupidity of a business owner to alienate such a large portion of his customer base with one donation to a political candidate.
I, as a consumer of Marvel Comics, think this was an incredibly naïve and stupid move on his part that has done nothing more than raise the ire of people for no reason. People are entitled to their beliefs. This is America where we can believe pretty much anything we want. Yet one thing people seem to forget on a daily basis is that the freedom to express your opinion or support for ideals that do not sit well with people can come with consequences. As to how this will affect Marvel in the short and long terms is unknown. More than likely, within a month we’ll forget this ever happened and moved on. Until then, what I would like to see are people supporting charities for the victims of beliefs that I believe Mr. Trump supports. All it takes is one bigoted person in power to make the lives of millions miserable. For our part, we can try and channel our anger at this donation and try and make the lives of people who might otherwise suffer a little brighter.