NBC's Curry Links Occupy Wall Street Protesters to Arab Spring

Following Time managing editor Rick Stengel revealing the magazine's "Person of the Year" to be "The Protester" on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry attempted to compared the Arab Spring democracy movement in the Middle East to Occupy Wall Street: "Are there links between what had happened in the Arab Spring...and also what's happening now on Wall Street and all across this country?" [Audio available here]

Also noting the suppressed 2009 Green Movement in Iran and the recent election protests in Russia, Curry added: "...there seems to be this kind of global protest." Stengel enthusiastically agreed with Curry's comparison: "Absolutely. There's this contagion of protests....what happened in the Arab world did influence Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland and the protests in Greece and Madrid." [View video after the jump]

Stengel further explained: "All of the protests we talked to, and our correspondents fanned out around the world, they all talked about how they'd been influenced by other protests and how social media brought all of that closer. And it's really an extraordinary combination of demography and technology that brought about this change."


Here is a full transcript of the December 14 segment:

7:35AM ET

MATT LAUER: Now it's time to unveil Time magazine's pick for the "Person of the Year." The criteria, someone who, for better or worse, has done the most to influence and affect our lives. Rick Stengel is Time's managing editor. Rick, always good to have you here, good morning.

RICK STENGEL: Good to see you.

LAUER: Don't give us the name yet, alright? So let's take a look at some of the names that made the final list, the people you deliberated about in the final hours. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, Admiral William McRaven, who was the commander of the Navy Seal Team Six raid that took out Osama Bin Laden. Congressman Paul Ryan, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. And you also included a conceptional option, "The Protester," kind of a nameless, faceless protester. Take us through some of those options.

STENGEL: Well, Admiral McRaven captured Bin Laden and the Duchess of Windsor captured our hearts. They represent people who affected us in one way or another, who swayed the conversation, captured our imagination. And it kind of represents a gamut from Weiwei, "The Protester," to the Duchess, who's a more popular choice, to McRaven, who, you know, did something extraordinary in kind of changing the destiny of our fight against Al Qaeda.

ANN CURRY: Some people might wonder, you know, not in your top five, Steve Jobs, Gabby Giffords. Were they somewhere else on the list?

STENGEL: Well, actually, Gabby Giffords is in the magazine. We did a internet interview with her, an e-mail interview. Steve jobs is at the beginning of our farewell section, where we say goodbye to people who left us during the course of the year. You know, a lot of discussion about Steve Jobs. It's not – it's not a lifetime achievement award, and Steve, you know, is someone I venerate, but it wasn't really a year where he transformed anything.

LAUER: Alright, when it came down to the final voting, Rick, how – was it a unanimous choice? Was there a lot of disagreement? Did you have to step in and make the final decision? How did it go?

STENGEL: You know, there was a lot of consensus among our people, among our correspondents and editors. You know, people felt that this was the best choice, the most serious choice. And – and so, it actually felt right and good.

CURRY: Alright. So I am assuming that you are ready. You have a magazine in your lap.

STENGEL: I do. I do.

CURRY: And I'm understanding that the criteria is someone who has influenced the past year, may also influence the year ahead, by your criteria?

STENGEL: Right. I like to choose somebody who actually does influence the year ahead. And our "Person of the Year" for 2011 is "The Protester," the men and women around the world, but particularly in the Middle East, who toppled governments, who brought a sense of democracy and dignity to people who hadn't had it before. And I think speaking of the year ahead, these are folks who are going to change – they are changing history already and they will change history in the future.

LAUER: And you think about what they did in the Arab Spring with Qadhafi gone, and Hosni Mubarak put on trial. And you look about how that region literally transformed in a matter of six months.
                
STENGEL: Right. And you've all reported from there. I mean that place was – there was no movement there. We thought these dictators are not going to be toppled. And then these people who risked their lives, risked their livelihoods to go out there and brought about change that nobody had expected. It really is a – it's a transformational thing and I think it is changing the world for the better.

CURRY: Are there links between what had happened in the Arab Spring and what happened two years earlier, actually, in Iran, with the Green Movement that was suppressed and also what's happening now on Wall Street and all across this country and even over the weekend in Russia? I mean, there seems to be this kind of global protest.        

LAUER: Different grievances.

STENGEL: Absolutely. There's this contagion of protests. In fact, the story written by Curt Anderson brings together all those strands. Because Iran prefigured what was going to happen in the Arab world and then what happened in the Arab world did influence Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland and the protests in Greece and Madrid. All of the protests we talked to, and our correspondents fanned out around the world, they all talked about how they'd been influenced by other protests and how social media brought all of that closer. And it's really an extraordinary combination of demography and technology that brought about this change.

LAUER: So, again, just if you missed it a second ago, Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2011 is "The Protester." As always, Rick Stengel, it's good to have you here. Thanks for revealing it here on the show.

STENGEL: Thank you so much.

LAUER: We appreciate it. And by the way, the issue is available online today. It hits newsstands on Friday.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC