The former Army Ranger and small-business owner is wearing a plaid ivy cap over a shaved head. His T-shirt advertises “American Third Position: Liberty, Sovereignty, Identity.”
Though he asked CityBeat to withhold his surname, Damon is open about his views. He believes the government doesn't represent the common man, that immigrants are a threat to public safety and employment (particularly in San Diego County, where he grew up) and that white Americans must become conscious of their race. He doesn't censor himself when a server walks by, and he pays no mind to the customers a few tables over. That's the point of American Third Position—it's white nationalism packaged for a mainstream audience.
Damon wasn't always so tempered with his rhetoric. He was involved with neo-Nazi groups in the past—he has protested, pamphleteered and brawled. “In my youth, like I think a lot of people are, I was just at odds with the world, and you get a little angry and you move with that because it's kinda all you know,” he says. “As I got older and a little wiser, I saw that what I was doing wasn't really reaching the regular white guy on the street.”
Damon first came to CityBeat's attention through the Stormfront.org message board, the central online forum for the full spectrum of white nationalists, from Minutemen to skinheads. Damon participates under the username Cycoville. On his user profile, he identifies himself as “1/2 IRISH 1/2 SCOTTISH 100% CELTIC WARRIOR” and describes where lives as an “island of WHITE in a sea of mud.”
In May, Stormfront members from San Diego, including Damon, formed their own online “social group” to organize barbecues, hikes and a day trip to the Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering in Vista. But when one local neo-Nazi tried to use the forum to recruit members for protests against LGBT events—including “Out in Petco Park” on July 1 and San Diego Pride on July 17—Damon was quick to smack down the idea.
“If we want this movement to grow and work, we need to awaken the slumbering White Nationalists, the regular folks, and that doesn't happen when we go and yell ni99er and fa66ot,” Damon responded on the site. “Makes us look like a bunch of ignorant a$$holes, and who want's [sic] to be an A## Hole? I sure don't.”
Damon told the user to be patient; San Diego's white nationalists have something in the works—American Third Position or A3P.
Based in Orange County, the political group registered itself with the California Secretary of State late in 2009. Representatives have set up tables and small demonstrations in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, where young men and women wave U.S. flags and hold posters that say “Support Arizona” and “American Jobs for American People.” San Diego County may be the next target for the group, which is, on its face, indistinguishable from a Tea Party or other libertarian organization.
There is a difference, though: A3P aspires to be the party that exclusively represents the interests of white people. It's this element that has attracted the attention of local groups like the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, which has republished articles from the southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate group, on its blog. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that tracks anti-Semitism, has compiled extensive dossiers on the group's leaders and their ties to alleged racist and extremist organizations.
Rather than deny it, A3P Chairman William Johnson, an L.A.-based attorney, puts the group in context with the current political climate.
“I've been quite involved for maybe close to 30 years, and I've worked in different organizations, and they've never been successful,” Johnson says. “They've always caused a lot of grief to my family and me because a lot of people dislike my views. But this is the first time now that I'm finding an acceptance toward my positions. I think we're seeing a monumental shift in public opinion. While I've not changed my views, public perception of my views is changing even as we speak.”
The group plans to run candidates in every state; this year, it raised money—through online “money bombs”—for Ryan Murdough, a white nationalist and A3P state chairman running as a Republican in a New Hampshire state representative race.
“If you care to compare us with the Ron Paul money bomb, I'd have to say it was ‘modest,'” Johnson chuckles. He worked “extensively” on Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. “I think that we raised an encouraging amount of money, but it's a modest sum.”
Gustavo Arellano, who covers the hate-group beat for OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County (he also writes the popular “Ask a Mexican” column), has declared a sort of media war on A3P. From the beginning of the year, he began publishing in-depth investigations into the group in order to reveal their extremist undertones despite their almost-mainstream message.
One difference between A3P and other alleged hate groups, Arellano says, is that A3P attempts to establish legitimacy through prominent figures such as Johnson and Kevin Mac- Donald, a tenured professor at California State University, Long Beach.
Johnson had previously run for superior court judge until Los Angeles' Metropolitan News-Enterprise revealed that he was the author of the infamous Pace Amendment, a legal proposal that would limit citizenship to Americans of European descent and result in the deportation of everyone else. Mac- Donald has also been at the center of controversy for his academic writing on Jews from an “evolutionary point of view” and in terms of political power.
“As I called them in my story, they're basically skinheads in suits,” Arellano says. “If you read their position papers, it's very much an America for white people only.”
MacDonald complains that he has been harassed on campus since 2006 for his writing and that those protests picked up steam this year in response to the formation of A3P. He argues that, as whites face the real possibility of becoming the minority in certain parts of the country, the race must recognize its common interests and fight for them as other ethnic groups, such as La Raza and the NAACP, have.
“Often times, people like myself are called white supremacists,” MacDonald says. “This is not an IQ-based argument that we're somehow superior. It's just that we have interests different from other people. It's entirely OK for us to assert those interests.”
These white interests include immigration, affirmative action and employment—issues that MacDonald says are equally important to the mainstream Tea Party movement. He notes that Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white.
“In my view, white people already believe what we believe,” MacDonald says. “But they are intimidated by being associated with skinheads and that kind of stuff. They don't want to be seen as stupid and violent. I can understand that.”
And that's why A3P frowns upon the hostile, incendiary activities common among white-nationalist groups.
“If I go as a ‘skinhead' and push the hate, I'm only going to be able to connect with somebody that thinks and feels the same way,” Damon says about his recruiting methods. “If I talk to you one-on-one, man-to-man about just normal problems in life, I can enlighten you on a bit more stuff. We can have an open-minded conversation and show this person that the government is against us.”
At that point, it's easy for Damon to introduce the issue of race, not in terms of hate, but in terms of pride.
“There's nothing wrong with you being a white guy and being proud to be white and proud to be whatever your European heritage is and embracing that,” Damon says. “You're not a racist because you don't want to go and drink Tecates on Cinco de Mayo at a Mexican bar.”
Arellano says A3P's strategy—presenting themselves as “concerned Americans”— will work, but only to a certain extent.
“I do think they'll be able to, at the very least, get people to take their brochures,” Arellano says. “I would hope that most people, once they learn of the actual meat of the message, would shun them as the neo-Nazis that they are.”
Less than a year in operation, A3P isn't a huge movement. On Facebook, it has more than 1,400 followers, but it was able to raise only $100 to support Arizona in its legal defense of the anti-immigration law SB 1070. (That money was returned to A3P after news media reported it was donated by a hate group.)
Only about 15 people are members of the San Diego County group on Stormfront.
The question remains whether A3P will become a bona fide political group similar to England's British National Party, or whether this is simply a new marketing scheme for luring people into a hate group.
Damon describes the San Diego white-nationalist get-togethers as no different from any group of friends having a good time.
“It's not Hitler youth training,” he says.
“We're not forming a militia. We're not trying to take over the world or anything. A lot of what we do is talk about what's going on in each other's lives.”
However, Damon's statements as Cycoville on Stormfront run counter to his claims that his group is benign. Take, for example, a post he made after CityBeat's interview regarding his barbeques: “Every time nigs and beans try and even LOOK at a house in my neighborhood, it's time for a BBQ. I'm talking skinheads and bikers, each with more [tattooed] ink than a ball point pen. All hanging out in the front yard with the rest of the neighbors, playing Skrewdriver and eating dead animal.”
In the last month, Damon has also posted messages about how he would like to lob tear-gas at immigrants' rights activists. He has discussed which automatic weapons would be most useful in the event of a Mexican invasion. He also advised another user to seek a lawyer's help to get around prohibitions against felons owning firearms. These remarks seem to support Arellano's suspicions.
“It's my belief as a reporter that you should report these groups from the very beginning rather than one day wake up and say, ‘Oh my God, where did this come from?'” Arellano says.