Family Security Matters (FSM) is a neoconservative advocacy outfit based in Washington, D.C. that bills itself as the "national security resource for American families." Closely connected to other hardline outfits through overlapping board members, FSM plays a high-profile and controversial role advocating hardline policies in the "war on terror." Since 2004, it has championed a tough line on Iran, China, and other perceived enemies; supported the Iraq War; promoted preferential treatment of Israel; exhibited a highly Islamophobic response to democratic uprisings in the Middle East; and taken a hawkish line on Iran.
FSM's website serves as a repository for right-wing commentary on these matters and others. A January 2012 commentary from the Foundation for Defense of Democracy's Andrew McCarthy, for example, explained Islamist victories in post-Arab Spring elections in starkly anti-Muslim terms. "Enthralled by diversity for its own sake, we have lost the capacity to comprehend a civilization whose idea of diversity is coercing diverse peoples into obedience to its evolution-resistant norms, " he wrote. "The Arab Spring has not been hijacked any more than Islam was hijacked by the suicide terrorists of 9/11. Islam is ascendant because that is the way Muslims of the Middle East want it."
In a similar, strikingly racist article released two days later, FSM contributor Ralph Peters chalked up the troubles in the Arab world to the practice of Islam, glossing over decades of colonialism and dictatorship and brushing aside problems associated with poverty. Calling the Arab world a "pathetic wreck of a civilization," Peters concluded, "Arabs are, occasionally, a deadly annoyance to us, but they've been an immeasurable disaster to themselves."
In another January 2012 posting, FSM Contributing Editor Mark Silverberg (also an analyst for the Ariel Center for Policy Research) described the Iranian clerical regime in messianic, apocalyptic terms. "Iran has become a martyrdom-obsessed state run by religious fanatics bent on spreading Shiite Islam throughout the world. Any country that threatens to wipe out other countries, peoples or cultures should not be underestimated nor should the West assume that Iranian ambitions can be 'contained,'" he wrote.
He concluded on a paranoid note, implying that only imminent military action could stop Iran's quest to establish a "global caliphate": "Time is running out, negotiations have proven fruitless, sanctions have yet to be proven effective, and Iran is stalling for time while enriching uranium to weapons-grade quality and closing in on a nuclear weapon, a delivery system, and a nuclear shield under which it intends to establish a global Islamic caliphate under its control. With Iranian Islamic imperialism on the march, we have reached the point of no return in deciding whether or not to allow such a regime to go nuclear."
FSM associates often voice discredited conspiracy theories, including casting doubt on the birthplace of President Barack Obama and stoking alarm about the spread of "sharia law" in the United States. After Obama's long-form birth certificate was released in April 2011, for example—long after rumors about the president's birthplace had originally been discredited—FSM president Carol Tabor said that the document should be "forensically tested" to ensure its authenticity.
FSM has also published numerous commentaries by the Center for Security Policy's Clare Lopez that have been overtly hostile to Muslims living in the United States. Amid the ginned-up November 2011 controversy over the TLC reality show All-American Muslim, which documented the ordinary lives of Muslim families in suburban Detroit, Lopez contributed a piece to FSM calling the show a "whitewash," for the apparent reason that none of the characters were terrorists. In another piece the following month, Lopez breathlessly warned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was coordinating with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to criminalize the criticism of Islam in the United States.
The group's publications have been the subject of heated criticism, in part because of their often-extremist views. A case in point was the August 2007 article, "Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy," written by FSM contributor Philip Atkinson, who wrote: "The simple truth [is] that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide. Israel provides the perfect example. If the Israelis do not raze Iran, the Iranians will fulfill their boast and wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Yet Israel is not popular, and so is denied permission to defend itself. In the same vein, President [George W.] Bush cannot do what is necessary for the survival of Americans. He cannot use the nation's powerful weapons. All he can do is try and discover a result that will be popular with Americans."
Regarding the Iraq War, Atkinson would have preferred using nuclear weapons to defeat Saddam Hussein's regime: "When faced with the possible threat that the Iraqis might be amassing terrible weapons that could be used to slay millions of citizens of Western Civilization, President Bush took the only action prudence demanded and the electorate allowed: he conquered Iraq with an army. ... The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life."
Controversy over Nonpartisan Posturing
FSM's public face is Carol Taber, the group's founder, who is also a board member of the rightist Independent Women's Forum. Her appearance on September 28, 2004, during a special segment of Fox News, just weeks before the 2004 presidential elections, helped draw public attention to her group. Claiming that FSM was designed to appeal to a new "crucial target voter," the so-called security moms, Taber said that "focus groups" purportedly organized by FSM had revealed that mothers preferred George W. Bush over Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), largely because Kerry supposedly could not be trusted to ensure their security. She said: "What we found is very interesting, and it favors President Bush, number one. As I said before, the A-number-one concern for these women is the safety and security of their families. Now, President Bush scores very well here because they really do see him as a strong and resolute leader. But they don't see the same thing in John Kerry." Taber then pressed her point: "I'll give you some verbatim quotes that we heard from the focus group to give an idea of what I'm talking about. Some women said about Mr. Kerry, 'I don't trust him.' Some said, 'I don't know what it is about him. I just don't like him.' Some women said, 'He looks sneaky.' We actually heard that a couple of times. Some women said, 'He's too rich to be president.'"
Commenting on the interview, which was presented on Fox's "Special Report with Bret Hume," Media Matters opined: "Carol A. Taber, president of Family Security Matters, presented Bush campaign attacks on Kerry as though they were nonpartisan public opinion data. Taber claimed that married women who once voted Democratic have embraced President George W. Bush for his handling of terrorism but produced no empirical evidence for her claims. In fact, Taber's harsh attacks on Kerry—along with her total lack of credentials as a public opinion or demographics expert—indicate that she is a partisan posing as an impartial analyst."
FSM has been criticized for misleadingly portraying itself as a nonpartisan organization, with the modest goal of providing "Americans like us the tools to become involved citizens and powerful defenders of our homes, our families, and our communities." But, say critics, lurking underneath this carefully crafted image is a radical agenda that is wholly partisan in its support for right-wing Republicans.
In its analysis of Taber's Fox appearance and of FSM, Media Matters pointed to a number of papers on FSM's website featuring titles like "Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security"; "Intelligence Failure: How Bill Clinton's National Security Policy Set the Stage for 9/11"; and "Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think." FSM, Media Matters concluded, was a "front group" created to promote the Bush administration agenda. FSM's website, replete with links to antiterrorism advice columns such as "It's for Kids Too—Especially Kids," offers a number of clues to its partisan allegiances. In late 2004, Media Matters for America discovered that the phone number listed on FSM's website actually belonged to the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a hardline foreign policy outfit run by former Reagan administration figure Frank Gaffney. (As of January 2012, FSM no longer provides a phone number on its website.)
After exploring the FSM's website in 2006, blogger Steve Clemons concluded that Family Security Matters "seems mostly intent on creating the political foundation for a national security state. They want folks who live in Missoula, Montana; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Salina, Kansas; and Dubuque, Iowa to really worry that terrorists might be there to mess up their lives—any time, any moment."
FSM's board of advisers includes James DeGraffenreid, also a member of CSP's board; Paul Vallely, a conservative radio talk show host; Laura Ingraham, a right-wing commentator with a nationally syndicated radio show; Arthur Waldron, a well-known China hawk associated with the so-called Blue Team, an informal group of defense policy strategists who, prior to 9/11, led the effort to make China the top U.S. security concern; and James Woolsey, the former CIA head who has helped organize a lengthy list of hardline foreign policy advocacy outfits, including Americans for Victory over Terrorism, the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Brigitte Gabriel, president of American Congress for Truth, is one of FSM's contributing editors.