America, the grand bastion of free speech and thought, where every idea is openly debated in the public sphere, now resembles a West Asian dictatorship in which expression that is only favourable to the powers-that-be is allowed.

Spearheading this effort to police speech is a new movement. Called wokeness and quintessentially American, its goal is to “promote awareness of issues concerning social and racial justice.” But this definition is so broad that every aspect of everyday life falls into its trap, with people mercilessly cancelled for non-compliance with its speech codes.

The result has been a rise in hypocrisy in public discourse that has confused and bewildered ordinary Americans.

In the Covid era, in which maintaining social distancing and wearing masks are gold standards of responsible behaviour, violators are often publicly chastised on social media by woke police. Yet, when people show up at large gatherings to protest racial injustice, not wearing masks, not socially distancing, and shouting, all of which increase the chance of saliva droplets to spread, the woke movement excuses this behaviour as legitimate, because the cause is just. Ordinary Americans scratch their heads in wonder. Does the virus somehow know the difference?

Racial justice protests have brought chaos and violence to America’s cities. Small businesses have been looted and law enforcement officers are attacked. Citizen journalism on social media shows places burning away but the media invariably reports that the protests are “largely-peaceful.” What does this term even mean?

For over 100 years, the American press gained the world’s respect for bringing accountability to those in power, without displaying political bias. In the Pentagon Papers case, the media shone a light into actions of the liberal Lyndon Johnson administration. In the Watergate scandal, the media brought down a Republican president. But today’s media-entertainment complex is a leader in hypocrisy, giving Biden a free ride, while constantly bad-mouthing Trump. The press does not demand a press conference from Biden. When he does speak to the press, he is thrown softball questions that a high school student could answer. And when he commits gaffes, which is often, the media whitewashes those errors and only broadcasts edited versions. Such media behaviour is common in Syria, Iran, or North Korea, but it is now the standard operating procedure in America. The message of #MeToo was that all women should be believed. But the media has deliberately overlooked covering charges by Tara Reade that Biden sexually assaulted her when she was a staffer in his Senate office.

In August, Trump brokered a landmark deal for Israel to establish diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates. The media yawned. If this had happened under Obama’s watch, the media would have fawned all over him.

Last week, Bahrain announced that it too will follow the UAE’s lead. Two politicians from Norway and Sweden nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Atlantic magazine immediately responded by calling for an end to all peace Nobels.

Even the large tech giants are in lockstep and don’t hide their biases. Under their speech policies, any post that challenges the current-day narrative is deleted. Posts that debate alternative Covid therapies or interpretations of Covid data are classified as misinformation and taken down. Appearances of impropriety are just ignored. Twitter’s chief speech gatekeeper was previously a spokesperson for Kamala Harris.

Hypocrisy across the American landscape has risen to such a degree that many Americans are afraid to speak their minds in public for fear of being shamed. So strong is this fear that political pundits are anticipating a “hidden vote” wave that may storm polling stations and re-elect Trump.

Because, in flyover country, across the plains and the mountains, Trump continues to be seen as the last remaining defence against America’s new obsession with political correctness, micro-aggression, and wokeness.

The writer is Managing Director, Rao Advisors LLC, US