Superhighway to Hell?

How could a simple map create such a hullabaloo?

The map, released a couple of years ago by North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition Inc. (NASCO), showed a superhighway running from Mexico across the heartland of the United States, branching off at Kansas City with one branch ending at Winnipeg and another ending at Montreal. It was a map of already existing routes that would make up the superhighway. The routes from Mexico, across the U.S. and into Canada were highlighted in thick blue and that’s what led to one of the great conspiracy theories of our time.

Internet bloggers took one look at the map and began to write about the great conspiracy, involving the construction of a multi-lane highway linking Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Even so-called mainstream newspapers in the U.S. noticed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) superhighway and began writing wild theories about politicians’ intentions.

Human Events, an American conservative weekly newspaper founded in 1944, started the ball rolling with articles by right-wing journalist Jerome Corsi which accused President George W. Bush of secretly planning to build a giant 12-lane highway — why else the thick blue route? — which would entail the confiscation of millions of acres of privately-owned land. Corsi also wrote that the overall plan was to fully-integrate Mexico, the U.S. and Canada into one great entity on the North American continent. 

The Nation writer Christopher Hayes reported: “When completed, the highway will run from Mexico to Toronto, slicing through the heartland like a dagger sunk into a heifer at the loins and pulled clean to the throat. It will be four football fields wide, an expensive gully of concrete, noise and exhaust, swelled with cars, trucks, trains and pipelines carrying water, wires and God knows what else.”

He said the highway will plow under farms, subdivisions and acres of wilderness. The conspiracy theory got a lot more interesting when he introduced China into the mix. He said high-tech electronic customs monitors would be shipped from China to be offloaded at non-unionized Mexican ports, then travel north to Kansas City where the “cheap goods manufactured in booming Far East factories” would be distributed to Wal-Marts  across the continent.

“And this NAFTA Superhighway, as it is called, is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multi-national North American Union.”

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune joined the ranks of conspiracy theorists by emphatically saying that Mexico will own and operate the Kansas City Smart Port, putting in place its own customs officials. It was also claimed that Spain would own most of the toll roads, and a NAFTA tribunal, not the U.S. Supreme Court, would have the final say on trade disputes.

Furthermore, the conspiracy theorists said the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), signed between the three countries, is a Trojan horse wanting to be unleashed on unsuspecting Americans and create a Europe Union-style government across North America.

“Will the last person please take down the flag?” the San Gabriel newspaper asked.

In a nation already deeply enmeshed in fear, the reports have managed to create a greater climate of anxiety.

American politicians, sensing an opportunity to gain votes and donations, jumped on the conspiracy theory bandwagon. Congressmen, state and local politicians soon began to proclaim the dangers posed by the superhighway to American sovereignty. 

It has been suggested that the reason the myths circulating about the superhighway have been gaining momentum is because they tap into the anxieties felt about the dislocations of 21st-century global capitalism, a suspicion of Mexican designs on U.S. sovereignty, fear of terrorism and porous borders.

These are the very fears that CNN anchor, Lou Dobbs taps into daily. He has helped spread the belief that there is a great superhighway construction project soon to get underway with a Canada-Mexico-U.S. merger soon to follow. 

Conservative American commentator Patrick Buchanan wrote in WorldNetDaily that “the American people never supported NAFTA, and they are angry over Bush's failure to secure the border — but a shotgun marriage between our two nations appears prearranged. Central feature: a 10-lane, 400-yard-wide NAFTA superhighway from the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas, up to and across the U.S. border, all the way to Canada. Within the median strip dividing the north and south car and truck lanes would be rail lines for both passengers and freight traffic, and oil and gas pipelines.”

Canadian conspiracy theorist believe the plan also provides for the exportation of precious water to the U.S.

Confronted by the wild theories, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after the North American Leaders’ Summit — a meeting between Harper, Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at Montebello, Quebec — told reporters that the opposition may be talking about an “interplanetary” superhighway.

What contributes to conspiracy theories is that the three national leaders meet behind closed doors — recently and in the past — when discussing the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), allowing all kinds of spurious speculation to arise from those who can’t be convinced that the leaders only discuss  trade and security co-operation.

Premier Gary Doer told Free Press reporter Mia Robson that it is “no grassy knoll, even if it goes right through Dallas” — a reference to the conspiracy theory that has centred around the JFK assassination.

Manitoba happens to have a lot to gain by the establishment of a superhighway over already existing routes. The province’s trade with the U.S. and Mexico is $10.4 billion annually and $13 billion in good cross the Emerson/Pembina border every year. And, Manitoba happens to be a Canadian trucking centre with the potential to expand with the emergence of the superhighway.

Who would have thought a simple map could create so much havoc and cause so many conspiracy theorists to take to their computer keyboards with such vengeance?