“It’s a shite state of affairs Buhler – a shite state of affairs.”

Buhler, my wingman, scanned the thousands of empty seats in Balboa Park’s Starlight Bowl and agreed.

Every 2 minutes a massive jumbo jet screamed overhead on a landing path to the San Diego Airport. On the stage below, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson – two TV journalists fired for publicly proving GHB-improved milk is poisonous – paused for the jumbo jet screaming and then continued with their story.

The paltry crowd applauded when Jane told them she won half a million by suing Fox News for censorship. The anemic audience booed when Jane told them they are going slowly broke as Fox News appeals the verdict. Akre and Wilson, the idealistic journalists who tried to do real news on TV, were the highlight of an otherwise desperately boring day.

I went to San Diego last weekend for a little carnage, a little vengeance and some gross abuses of civil rights. Twenty thousand top executives from every biotech firm in the world were in one city for one week, and I came to witness the greed righteously being beaten out of them. Biotechnology companies dupe Americans out of billions every year. There’s no good reason to mark up AIDS drugs 4,000 percent – it’s just sadistic. It seemed like an ideal time to see some wrongs righted and some good fights fought, but upon entering the sunny Starlight Bowl, Buhler and I immediately realized our overestimation.

The gnarly cadre of hippies, anarchists and leftists that was BioJustice 2001 turned out to be less than sound and fury, signifying nothing: more like a quief, signifying wet flabbiness. Turnout for the protests was in the dumps. Pearl Harbor drew more warm bodies. Saturday’s teach-in and rally looked more like a leftist meet and greet. Sunday’s police-planned march along the permitted route during the permitted times had all the spontaneity of a decaying turd.

Buhler and I did not stick around until Sunday. We exercised our journalistic judgement at around 5 p.m. and got the hell out of town. The whole thing wasted gas, film, energy and time.

After reading the pathetic news stories this week, I was glad we didn’t stick around but was disappointed more didn’t come of it. While the hippies dressed up as mutants and banged bongos, high-paid geneticists took Ginsu knives to our chromosomes and marketed the cutlets. It’s open season on every DNA chain from sapiens to cyanobacteria and you wouldn’t believe the shit they have come up with. Have you ever seen glow-in-the-dark vegetables? How about self-carbonated fruit?

Meanwhile, the state of the American protest is somewhere between geriatric and vegetative: slumping toward vegetative. Americans are rich and it makes us complacent. But not to be underestimated is a mass psyche soothed by $250 million in biotech industry public relations.

It is prime time activists get with program. This is the media age and truth is only as good as your PR. Biotech companies know this. Activists who steal plays from the corporate PR playbook empower themselves with the techniques sacking each of their issues. If you want people chanting in the streets and calling for the head of Monsanto, it’s going to mean focus groups, demographics analysis, targeted propaganda: all that boring organizational stuff that’s so much less fun than dressing up as mutant corn and acting like a cabbage head.

It’s a shite state of affairs when people wait in all-night lines for concert tickets, but won’t march against the commodification of their humanity. The American activist, more than any other endangered species, is in dire need of some engineered evolution.

Daily Friday Editor David Downs loves his poisons, and will be martyred with cancer for them. His column runs Wednesdays, on-line, all summer.