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Why the media are gorging on Miley Cyrus’ MTV gyrations

It's been amusing to watch all the hyperventilating about Miley Cyrus. 

What she did at the VMAs was terrible, horrible, gross and downright nauseating, the pundits say. And hey, let's look at it again. Let's roll the tape, let's post the video, so you can see for yourself just how terrible, horrible, gross and nauseating she was on MTV. 

Forget Syria. Forget Fort Hood. Forget ObamaCare. America is consumed by Miley. 

It's the perfect media controversy -- naughty, sexually charged, celebrity-driven, and not requiring a command of complicated facts. And it possibly signals the end of civilization as we know it -- or at least the downward spiral of a troubled young woman. Plus, it's a chance to revel in her scanty outfit, her tongue-wagging, her twerking, and the suggestive way she was rubbing herself with that foam finger (the better to express disgust, of course). What on earth had happened to the lovable Hannah Montana, the Disney character she played as a teenager? 

Over to you, media big shots. 

The New York Times decried "the shambolic, trickster-esque performance by Ms. Cyrus, to whom no one has apparently said "no" for the last six months or so, which included plenty of lewdness and a molestation of Robin Thicke." 

"Embarrassingly raunchy," says an NBC Today show post. "Crotch grabbing? Check. Stripping and gyrations worthy of a strip club? Done. Prancing around in flesh-toned latex bra and panties? No prob. Grabbing and sticking her face in a dancer's rear end? You better believe it. Excessive tongue? As if you had to ask."

The Guardian sniffed: "Her hyper-sexualised set, which included rubbing her butt into Robin Thicke's crotch and getting extremely personal with an oversized foam finger, drew criticism from feminists for degrading her sex and from some pundits for "picking the pocket of black culture."

"Just short of pornography!" thundered Rush Limbaugh. 

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski lamented: "She is a mess. Someone needs to take care of her. Someone needs not to put her on stage and make a complete fool of herself." 

And it wasn't just media folks. Cyrus was mentioned 4.5 million times on Twitter as she stole the MTV spotlight. 

Some people, based on the venue, were even dissing Brooklyn! 

I was pretty appalled by the Miley's explicit gyrating routine as well, but there's something larger going on here. 

We've come to expect celebrity train wrecks as our due. Singing and dancing is no longer enough. Stars have to do something offensive to grab our collective attention in a fractured media world. 

Perhaps it started with Madonna and her cone-shaped bras, not to mention her lesbian kiss with Britney Spears (at a previous MTV awards show). 

Or with Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Or Lady Gaga with her costumes and occasional nude pictures. Or Beyonce's low-cut, super-tight getup at this year's Super Bowl halftime. 

There is a public and media fascination with watching star-studded young women -- Lindsay, Paris, Britney, now Miley -- fall into a downward spiral. It's powered in part by a sense that they are rich and beautiful and yet have frittered away all their advantages. And that puts the press into how-low-will-they-go mode. 

But let's face it: The culture these days is such that you haven't made it unless you're infamous. Miley Cyrus knows this. So does MTV, a channel aimed at young viewers, which had no compunction about exposing them to this blatantly sexual routine. So if everyone is trashing what happened Sunday night, they win -- even if Cyrus turns out to be an eventual loser. 

Topless Journalism 

Turns out entertainers aren't the only ones using their bodies to get attention. 

Lori Welbourne has gone boldly where no reporter has gone before. 

The Canadian journalist was conducting a video interview with the mayor of a British Columbia town about whether it was legal for women to go topless there when she pulled down her halter top and continued to ask questions while bare-breasted.

"What are you doing?" asked Walter Gray, the mayor of Kelowna. 

"It's really hot in here," Welbourne replied. 

The Vancouver columnist got the best of both worlds -- generating traffic for her stunt while pixilating her body so she didn't show the goods (except to the exceptionally calm mayor). 

In fact, Gray's lack of a reaction gave the incident a surreal air -- he didn't even seem to take a peak -- and the mayor told CBC News that he was just playing along with what he knew to be a gag. Turns out it was International Go Topless Day. Who knew? 

Maybe Lori Welbourne can interview Miley Cyrus next.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.