Hollyhock is arguably Canada’s most controversial New Age retreat. It’s set on a plot of land near the southern tip of Cortes Island in British Columbia, a sparsely populated place with only about 450 people in the off-season that at least doubles during the summer. It’s a mystical island with mind-blowing natural beauty- untouched beaches, grand old forests and a small town atmosphere that’s so hard to find in the modern world. To many (including myself) Cortes is a slice of Heaven on Earth- Hollyhock is a great place to visit. (Check-out my pictures)
There are a number of unique things about Cortes. First, there’s no presence of the police- perhaps connected to the fact there’s been an unsolved murder (and an eerie looking secluded landing strip). Next, and probably most important, Cortes has become a refuge for BC’s (and the world’s) power elite- residents include Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Eco-Lobbyist Joel Solomon of the TIDES Foundation, and Rex Weyler of Greenpeace.
And, there’s one very unique thing about Hollyhock- the retreat can probably boast having the highest concentration of fake Pulitzer prize nominees of any new age destination in the world…
Back in January this site exposed Hollyhock’s first identified fake Pulitzer. Linda Solomon, the founder of the Vancouver Observer, sister of Joel Solomon & teacher at Hollyhock kick-started her career in the city’s media community with a book titled “I love Vancouver”. On the cover of the book it claimed that Solomon was a “Pulitzer-Nominated American Journalist). The book had it’s intended result, Solomon gained acceptance in Vancouver, launched the Vancouver Observer, and became a community influencer. Great stuff.
That is, with one little problem- according to the people at Pulitzer, Solomon cannot claim the title of being a Pulitzer nominee. The only people Pulitzer allows to use that title are the three finalists who are announced at the same time as the Pulitzer prize. All that happened in Solomon’s case was that someone stuck an application in an envelope and mailed it to Columbia University.
Rex Weyler is a legend in Canada- he’s one of the directors of the original Greenpeace Foundation, co-founder of Greenpeace International, he’s written a few books and many journalistic articles- currently, he’s the Writer In Residence at BC’s University of the Fraser Valley. Weyler’s life has been chock-full of accomplishments.
In 2008 Weyler published a book about the history of the American Indian Movement (of which one of the founders published a letter on this site) titled Blood On The Land- The Corporate War Against First Nations. The book was a moderate success- indigenous activists I’ve spoken with look at this work with respect. That said, when they learned the truth they were a bit disappointed.
Like Solomon, Weyler cannot really be considered as a Pulitzer nominee- someone mailed in an application (and $50), but he was never designated the title. Macmillan’s claim that Weyler’s book was nominated wasn’t an anomaly- the same claim has been made on Greenpeace’s website, some publishers, a number of online booksellers, and on the biography section of Weyler’s personal blog:
Weyler’s claim has caused a bit of a problem for the University of the Fraser Valley. The university hired Weyler into his post as Writer in Residence with the misguided belief that he was a Pulitzer nominee. Any students who joined UFV knowing they’d have an opportunity to say they worked with a Pulitzer nominated writer may now be a little (or a lot) disappointed. The UFV’s English department’s offering wasn’t what it said on the box.
The UFV contact I spoke with had very little to say. On our first call I explained how a representative from Pulitzer confirmed with me that Weyler’s not a nominee, and how I noticed they’d published that he was on their website. A response came later that they acknowledged there was an issue- they later took the Pulitzer mention down from their website. When asked what the UFV’s processes were to confirm such claims no information was immediately available.
Why is this important?
Both Weyler and Solomon are individuals who have a lot of influence over Canadian politics and policy- Hollyhock is a hub for many activist activities. If we look into personal relationships and sources of funding- Weyler, Solomon and Hollyhock are all deeply within the sphere of TIDES Canada, one of the most influential eco-lobbying organizations in the country. TIDES is funded through many foundations led by rich American families including (if you can believe it) the Rockefeller’s- a family that invented the concept of pipeline politics. TIDES, and the Observer both have significant influence over public policy and a sharp focus on pipeline politics.
If TIDES, the Solomons and their American sponsors find an opportunity to make policy that favours the US over Canada- which way will they fall? There’s a problem of trust.
Canadians have been told that we can trust foreign foundations to help guide Canadian policy. People like Vancouver Observer writer Sandy Garossino tell us we have nothing to worry about- and take vicious personal attacks against people who ask fair questions. It was documented by Vivian Kraus that these foundations work closely with USAID and the US Department of State– but, we’re told to believe that they’re working for the good of ordinary Canadians.
The Russians don’t believe that- they recently threw USAID out of the country for meddling in internal affairs…
The Solomons, the Vancouver Observer, and Weyler all have great personal influence with Canadian politicians. The below picture shows, NDP Candidate David Eby and party leader Thomas Mulcair actually make personal appearances at Joel Solomon’s home- who gets that sort of access. Joel Solomon has funded one of Eby’s previous campaigns- it’s unknown if he’s a donor to Eby’s current campaign. Linda Solomon’s Observer publishes stories promoting Eby’s positivity- but, conveniently, don’t cover his darker side.
How much influence is too much?
Situations like Hollyhock’s fake Pulitzer epidemic should remind us that, despite their influence and recognition for past work (or perhaps because of it), it’s dangerous for Canadians to assume American eco-lobbyists are always telling us the gospel truth. Solomon, Weyler and the people at TIDES have weaknesses like anyone else- ego, external influencers, and their personal will to succeed.
So, what next?
When Solomon was exposed for her faux Pulitzer nomination her response was less than transparent. The Vancouver Observer removed the screenshot of her book from their webpage and changed mention of her experience with Pulitzer from being “Pulitzer nominated” to “…the editors of the Tennessean made a nomination of this body of work for a Pulitzer Prize in the local reporting category”. Solomon made no public apology for this misrepresentation. When responding to my first article she tried to discredit my (very legitimate) story by calling this site an “attack blog”. She’s classy that way.
In 2012, while Solomon was still publicly claiming to be Pulitzer nominated, she won the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism award. They were contacted when the first story on Solomon’s Pulitzer scandal was written and couldn’t confirm if the decision was at all influenced by her claim. It was announced yesterday that the Observer has been nominated for 2013. Personally, I’d look at it as being rather irresponsible for Solomon or the Observer to be given this year’s award until she’s willing to stand-up and take responsibility for her Pulitzer incident.
As for Weyler, he’s not responded for comment to this article. People I’ve spoken to who know him say that he’s a great guy, and honest man who’s worked very hard for some important causes. I believe the same, what happened with his Pulitzer claim can’t take away all of the positive work he’s done. Let’s hope he takes a more honourable path than Solomon- all of my instincts say that he will.
One last point needs to be discussed about universities and how they verify the claims of their instructors. Solomon had a similar situation to Weyler’s when she was teaching journalism classes at the Emily Carr School of Art & Design. In Solomon’s case the school didn’t promote her status- but, one of her students did write in their blog how they were honoured to work with a Pulitzer nominated instructor. Universities, and all schools in general, owe it to their students to better check the reality of their instructor’s claims. There’s no excuse for the next time this happens…