About Nathan Benjamin Damigo
Perhaps best known for punching a female Antifa protester in the face, Nathan Damigo represents a case study in how right-wing extremist ideologies have transformed from the age of Skinheads and Klansmen to the age of the so-called “Alt-right.” During his time as vice-chairman of the National Youth Front, Damigo pioneered the usage of flyering campaigns — one of the Alt-Right’s most versatile, attention-grabbing tactics.
Prior to founding the white Nationalist Identity Evropa while a student at California State University, Stanislaus, Damigo began his career in white supremacist activism by joining the American Freedom Party (formerly American Third Position, also known as A3P) and eventually became the director of their now defunct youth branch, the National Youth Front. Having ditched the overtly racist and anti-Semitic language of the AFP, Damigo now speaks of ‘Cultural Marxism’ and ‘white genocide’ instead of the ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government) and white supremacy.
Born as Nathan Lodge in Lewiston, Maine, Damigo moved to San Jose, California, when he was six months old. He would later refer to his birthplace as “infamous” among his circles due to the influx of East African immigrants that he labeled “The Somali dump.” Adopted by Michael Damigo when his mother remarried, Nathan and his brother entered into a family with a military and police tradition; Michael was an ex-Marine and deputy sheriff who was involved in the fatal shooting of an illegal cannabis farmer.
During his childhood, Damigo attended a deeply religious, private Christian school in the Silicon Valley, and is the first to admit he wasn’t the most intelligent student. Damigo preferred skateboarding to class and planned for a life as a trade worker.
While not “race conscious” at the time, he inherited his parent’s deep conservative and civic nationalist values. Growing up in multicultural San Jose, many of Damigo’s childhood friends weren’t white. While he had some Latino and Filipino friends, he recalls feeling out of place in their tight-knit immigrant communities. “I found my friends shaped their political ideologies based on what was best for their racial and ethnic communities” Damigo told the alt-right Amerika.org, “They were not interested in what was best for America, but only that of themselves.”
In 2004, at age 18, Damigo left San Jose and joined the Marines. Contrasting his childhood with his experience in the military, Damigo recalls feeling more at ease in the predominantly white environment of his training class. Surrounded for the first time by people from similar backgrounds, Damigo describes his time in the military as important to his first steps down the road toward white nationalism, describing himself at the time as “race aware” but not “race conscious.”
This developing racial consciousness continued during his two tours in Iraq. Through a blindered focus on “tribal infighting and persecution” Damigo came to view multiculturalism as a “failed project.” In Damigo’s estimation, the solution to Iraqi domestic politics was very obvious. “This is dumb. Why don’t ... each one of them have their own country and they can all express themselves and ... they’re not, you know, fighting with each other” he told The Los Angeles Times in December of 2016.
In October of 2007, Damigo was on leave after completing his second tour in Iraq and faced difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Having lost three close friends who were killed in the Anbar province and suffering from PTSD, Damigo claims he felt “betrayed by the government.” According to San Diego County court records, Damigo fell into alcohol and drug abuse, culminating in his assault on an Arab cab driver.
Just a month after returning home, in November, Damigo went out drinking following the anniversary of the death of one of his friends and fellow soldiers. The night ended with the young Marine pulling a loaded gun on an innocent man for “looking Iraqi” and robbing him of $43 before being arrested and convicted for armed robbery in relation to the incident.
Following his arrest, Damigo received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the Marines and faced 10 to 15 years in prison due to mandatory minimum sentences for gun violence, although a plea bargain reduced his sentence to five years. (Correction: an earlier version of this page incorrectly stated that Damigo received a dishonorable discharge.)
Damigo has expressed some remorse for his crime. “I flipped out on the guy, it was a terrifying thing for him” he told a CNN reporter. “It is unfortunately something I have to live with for the rest of my life.”
However, when asked by the same interviewer whether he apologized to the man he assaulted Damigo seemed surprised by the question. He then admitted that he had in fact never apologized and declined an offer by the interviewer to do so.
Although Damigo has himself used the story of his imprisonment to rail against what he decries as a culture of “self-victimizing,” in an interview with Greg Johnson of the Alt-Right media site Counter-Currents, Damigo’s stoicism stands in stark contrast to the sustained campaign Damigo’s mother launched after his arrest in order to paint him as the victim of PTSD and a negligent government.
Taking her son’s story on the road, Charilyn Damigo spoke to journalists, government officials, town halls and even Pentagon staff about PTSD and Nathan’s circumstances. She was interviewed as part of Nathan’s story included in an HBO documentary Wartorn, which documents PTSD cases from the Civil War to the Iraqi invasion. Throughout all this Charilyn started a blog about Nathan in which she solicited donations in order to send him everything from art supplies to an Xbox 360. She even managed to get his OTH discharge amended so that he would be able to still qualify for VA benefits.
While his mother was doing everything in her power to mitigate the consequences of Damigo’s actions, in prison Damigo was well on the path to radicalization. He has called his experience in prison one of his greatest strengths, something that fundamentally shaped the person he became. According to Damigo, in prison “everybody kind of breaks down on race. It’s constantly present.”
Upon the suggestion of a fellow inmate, Damigo read David Duke’s My Awakening and became a committed ethno-nationalist.
Prison didn’t just change Damigo’s views on race but on religion as well. Having grown up in a deeply Baptist household, he was taught creationism from a young age. In prison he explored evolutionary theory and emerged with a new worldview informed by discredited racist eugenic theories, finding in them the ‘scientific’ evidence to support his newfound political beliefs.
Upon release from prison in 2014 Damigo began attending classes at the California State University Stanislaus where he joined the NYF, the youth wing of the America Freedom Party, a white supremacist group created by South Californian skinheads, and ultimately advanced to the role of director. It was during his tenure as director that the NYF lost its name under threats of a copyright lawsuit from Youthfront. Damigo then spent the next few months rebranding and shifting through names such as ‘The Nameless Organization’ and ‘The Disaffected’ before settling on Identity Evropa (pronounced Europa) in 2016.
While the same core network remained, Identity Evropa came about as a new, more explicitly ethno-nationalist interest group than its previous incarnations. Based on the model of European Identitarian groups, Damigo launched his new organization from his grandparents’ compound in Oakdale, California. Identity Evropa focuses on recruiting college-aged, white students in order to discuss “race realism” and white interests, targeting disaffected young men by branding itself as a fraternity and social club.
Identity Evropa’s primary tactic, dubbed “Project Siege,” was to post provocative flyers around campuses and draw media attention to cover their actions. Through Identity Evropa, Damigo gained experience at drawing media attention and came into contact with white nationalists from across the country, most importantly Richard Spencer and fellow Marine veteran Angelo John Gage, who he worked with in NYF. Meanwhile, activists, faculty, students and alumni from his school began to protest his attendance at CSU Stanislaus.
Damigo’s campaigns tended to focus on perceived anti-white sentiments and prejudices being instilled and perpetuated on college campuses. Some campaigns consisted of targeting professors who taught courses on white privilege and promoting white student unions.
Like many in the new radical right, Damigo attempts to hide the racism of his position behind the language of identity politics in order to give it the veneer of legitimacy for mainstream consumption. As Damigo is attempting to unite a divided radical base and draw in outsiders, it comes as no surprise that his group is based more on aesthetic appeal than political commitments. Other than promoting white pride and identity, Damigo is careful to avoid speaking about which specific policies would be necessary to create an ethno-state.
One commitment the group maintains is its exclusionary policy toward non-whites and Jews. Included on the Identity Evropa application form is the caveat that the group seeks members of “non-Semitic” heritage.
While Identity Evropa lacks substance in its political content, their aesthetic appeal and reliance on familiar racist tropes and narratives works on an emotive and imaginary level to plant in the minds of disaffected white youth a vision of a white utopia. This imaginary utopia, rather than rational or moral principles, becomes the basis and ultimate justification for all of their politics.
Although Damigo is usually associated with the relatively media-savvy style of Richard Spencer, based in no small part on a shared affinity for “fashy” haircuts, Damigo is far less charismatic or convincing on camera. In spite of his reliance on a handful of scripted arguments, Damigo’s interviews are usually awkward and stilted. He generally speaks with a circular logic and attempts to redirect difficult questions back to simple, pre-rehearsed statements.
Borrowing a familiar trope utilized by Richard Spencer and others on the radical right to subvert the language of identity politics, Damigo often claims he wants to make “safe spaces for white students” to discuss race and promote white interests.
During an interview with Richard Spencer, Damigo even admitted to following leftist internet threads and saving comments that people made in order to rework them to promote white identitarianism.
“Some of the rhetoric I’ve seen on some of those pages has been phenomenal. I’ve actually, I think, copy and pasted some of them as notes just because the talking points were so amazing” he told Spencer, adding that the Alt-Right “is definitely really a left wing movement”.
Aside from his work with Identity Evropa, Damigo has been active in a slough of Alt-Right activities. He has attended rallies and white supremacist gatherings across the country from the infamous 2016 National Policy Institute conference to the recent American Renaissance conference on July 28, 2017. Damigo cohosted coverage of the Republican National Convention for the racist and anti-Semitic media channel Red Ice Radio.
On April 15, 2017, a brawl broke out between hundreds of supporters of President Trump and various protester groups, including “Antifa,” a loose coalition of anti-fascist activists. Dubbed “The Battle of Berkeley,” the event quickly descended into chaos and police were forced to fire tear gas into the crowd. Video emerged of the melee, including one particular scene where a small man wearing a blue shirt and a leather bag jumps into a violent crowd and punches a 95-pound female antifa protester in the face.
Although the man quickly fled as the woman picked herself up, the offender was easily identified as Nathan Damigo. Though his actions were widely denounced in the mainstream media, the Alt-Right subverted coverage of the incident to meme Damigo into the role of a hero and latter-day warrior.
The woman was subsequently doxed and pilloried online in an attempt to shift the spotlight away from Damigo and justify his actions. Damigo came to adopt a narrative spun up by right wing trolls that claimed the woman was hurling improvised explosives and that Damigo was falling back onto his military training. Official accounts and video evidence fail to verify this claim.
Cal State Stanislaus issued a statement indicating that a formal investigation into Damigo’s actions had been launched.
Recent months have seen Damigo present at numerous protests and events with other Alt-Right notables. Most notably Damigo shared a podium with Mike Peinovich (of the anti-Semitic and racist website The Right Stuff), Richard Spencer, Sam Dickson and Jason Kessler, during a luncheon prior to a now-infamous torch lit rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Damigo has indicated he plans to attend the second Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, organized by Kessler, on August 12, 2017.
Damigo claims that since the "Battle of Berkeley," Identity Evropa experienced a surge in applications. Confronted by a journalist, Damigo says he doesn’t regret his actions at Berkeley. For him, the positive feedback he’s received from his base far outweighs the negative media coverage. When asked how he feels about the media attention, Damigo gave a one-word answer: “Great.”
In Their Words
“America was founded by white people. It was founded for white people. America was not founded to be a multiracial, multicultural society. The founders were well aware of the importance that identity played in the make-up of a nation. And how fundamental it was to the future progress and success of that people.” — Freedom of Speech Rally, Washington D.C., June 25, 2017.
“Our Society is the extended phenotype of our People.” — On The Front Episode 4: “Fashy Haircuts, Memes, & Extended Phenotypes,” YouTube, December 28, 2015.
“We have people who’ve been here [in America] for hundreds of years, people of African heritage who’ve not fully assimilated.” — “White Nationalist Opens Up to The Young Turks,” Youtube, December 6, 2016. 12.6.2016.
“Most people think of Democracy as being synonymous with free speech, it isn’t necessarily.” — “Reality Calls Show #1: Nathan Damigo, Identity Evropa,” YouTube, January 15, 2017.