Is Video Game And Hollywood Violence Making Americans More Violent?


The other scapegoat for the awful murders in Connecticut, other than guns and gun ownership, seems to be violence in American entertainment.

“We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we do doesn’t have a sort of influence,” none other than Hollywood star Jamie Foxx said in an interview on Saturday. “It does.”

Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper also told CNN that “video games” may be to blame for shootings such as the one in Connecticut and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting earlier this year.

Here’s the problem: If violent movies, television shows and video games are making us more violent, then why aren’t we actually more violent? Both the governor and Mr. Foxx sound pretty certain of their conclusions, yet the data doesn’t support them.

For one, according to the FBI’s crime index, violent crimes in America are down and have been trending that way for decades even as violence in movies, and especially in video games and on television, rises:


And, since mass shootings seem to be the context in which we discuss these questions of violence in entertainment (not to mention increasing gun control), it’s worth noting that instances of mass killings, specifically, have been in decline as well:

[T]hose who study mass shootings say they are not becoming more common.

“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.

The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.

Society moves on, he says, because of our ability to distance ourselves from the horror of the day, and because people believe that these tragedies are “1 of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”

Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.

Given these trends, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between violent crimes (and mass shootings as a subset of violent crimes) and rises in entertainment violence and gun sales. If those calling for gun control, and less violence in entertainment, were right we should be seeing the opposite of these trends. Mass shootings, and violent crime in general, should be going up.

They aren’t. Which means that there is either some other cause-and-effect at play here, or perhaps these sort of things are just random.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Flamejob5

    I keep going back & forth on this topic.

    On one hand you have to really wonder if some children exposed to violent games/movies at an age where they are simply too young to fully comprehend reality from fantasy are somehow being negatively affected. On the other, the facts just don’t seem to support this notion. Although, even though there has been an overall decrease in crime, there has simultaneously been an increase in mass shooting incidents over the last few decades.

    Something must be motivating these attacks. For now, i’ll have to remain inconclusive.

  • Guest

    Rob has zero credibility on this debate. He rejects the criticism that his position also allows the use of personal nuclear weapons as reductio ad absurdum, but simultaneously argues that if we want to ban guns we should also ban cars. He all but argues more guns have resulted in less crime, but he explains why conservative states have higher rates by citing their higher rate of gun ownership. Derp!

    • Rob

      Right. But ignore taking rates of violent crimes and mass shootings even as gun sales have boomed.

      • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

        Um, wasn’t the mother of the CT shooter part of that new gun owner percentage? Me thinks yes. There goes your argument.

        • Proof

          “Me (sic) thinks yes.”

          There’s a big difference, Dullard, between “me thinks” and “methinks”.

          That’s the trouble with you trying to be clever, Hanni. You’re not.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Poofy, forever failing to see the forest.

            The shooter killed 19 children after his mother listened to those telling her the economic collapse is coming, and after she became part of that uptick of gun owners, stock-piling weapons.

            This was as predictable as the sunrise.

  • ‘Tom Crawford

    I don’t believe that it makes you more violent, just desensitizes you to violence. So what would bother someone seeing death and destruction, someone who sees it all the time in movies, news and violent video games sees it as every day happenings, nothing to be overly worried about, shrug your shoulders and continue on…….

    • Rob

      Do we know that these video games make you desensitized? That seems to be the assumption everyone makes, but I don’t know it to be true.

      • ‘Tom Crawford

        ….ah but the reverse is as well, you don’t know it not to be true either.

        Some light reading:

        Psychological research confirms that violent video games can increase children’s aggression, but that parents moderate the negative effects.


        Dr. Anderson and colleagues have shown that playing a lot of violent video games is related to having more aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Furthermore, playing violent games is also related to children being less willing to be caring and helpful towards their peers. Importantly, research has shown that these effects happen just as much for non-aggressive children as they do for children who already have aggressive tendencies (Anderson et al., under review; Gentile et al., 2004).

        Myths and Facts:

        a bit more…

        • AV

          Yeah, but there are studies showing slight changes in both directions.

          A general principle in science is that if there are about as many positive and negative studies, then there is likely no effect. In psychology, the ratio for acceptance is about 20:1 in favor, and in particle physics, it’s about 10,000:1 .

          Another example (of a non-effect) is the supposed link between mobiles & cancer. Yet ‘tards still parade cherry-picked studies that support their agenda.

        • JJD

          My son had a temper problem when he was starting puberty, so we took him to a psychologist. The doctor suggested to us that letting him play games like COD actually allowed him to work out his aggression in a way that ensured no real people got hurt, including himself. I’ve found that it’s true, while he gets pretty worked up while playing those games, he can separate game from life and his temper has tempered.

      • AV

        You are correct, there isn’t any (credible/reproducible) evidence of this supposed desensitization.

  • igx

    I have a relative that is a PhD neuro psychologist at one of the leading research university’s in this area. He says the games are far worse than movies etc. for grooving demented minds. They are a really bad development relative to other culture.

  • spud

    It’s a sticky situation because your talking about first amendment rights on these video games and movies. Second amendment rights if you at the least try to reduce maybe at most firing off ten clips instead of thirty. Most of all putting people in mental health units is some violation of there freedoms. We need a honest conversation in this country on all three but now is not when that happens when everybody is up in arms about this tragedy. This is when you make irrational laws in the sake of doing something. Does anyone really think elimination of semi- automatics or arming or making fortresses of schools will solve these problems overnite.

    • spud

      I meant ten bullets.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Hollywood and television programming have influence on social behavior beyond violence. In general our collective ethics are dissipating and I believe the movie industry
    plays a role in that.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Rob, are you moderating posts now? I see if I click “oldest” under Discussion then my recent post doesn’t show up. I didn’t “curse” as you scolded me (yet woof apparently can say the exact same word w/o a problem) So what’s going on? Is Say Anything really no longer “say anything”?

    • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

      Stop the drugs, learn to hit the enter button correctly.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Rob, are you moderating posts now? I see if I click “oldest” under Discussion then my recent post doesn’t show up. I didn’t “curse” as you scolded me (yet woof apparently can say the exact same word w/o a problem) So what’s going on? Is Say Anything really no longer “say anything”?

    • Rob

      Your comments are showing up just fine. Don’t be so paranoid.

  • realitybasedbob

    Is Video Game And Hollywood Violence Making Americans More Violent?

    I don’t know. Is our children learning?

    • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

      Where is Poof when we really need him?

      • Proof

        See the above and be careful what you wish for, when your lips are so firmly attached to Nuttterbob’s backside, that you fail to see that the grammatical error was his, not Rob’s.

        • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

          The error was Rob’s. Rob identified two different things, making them plural.

    • Proof

      “Is Video Game (violence) And Hollywood Violence Making Americans More Violent?” (The word in parenthesis is to be understood by sane and rational readers)

      The construction is “parallel”, for all the mindless twits unsure of which century it is. The subject is “video game and Hollywood” violence. Anther way to say it, ” Is Violence (in any form) Making Americans More Violent?”

      Had he said spoken of video games and Hollywood violence, the subject would have been plural and you and Hanni would still both be morons.

      Unlike most of the drivel you spew, Nutterbob, Rob’s headline is grammatically correct. A pity that you and your butt buddies are not capable of seeing nuance in the English language.

      • Proof

        Now that I’ve started my second cup of coffee, let me see if I can make it easier still. (Realizing that teaching English grammar to you and Hanni is like teaching a blind, deaf chimpanzee to play the accordion with one hand)

        “the violence of video games and Hollywood” is the subject. “Entertainment”, if you will. I know you and Hanni have experienced problems in the past with words that large, but deal with it.

        And, unlike Nutterbob, whose convoluted and childish headlines go on for miles (since few bother to read past the headline), and Hanni who has neither the balls nor so much as a single original thought of his own to express in a blog, Rob was writing a headline for a blog post.

        You may now return to quibbling about things you simply cannot comprehend.

        • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

          Oh, please stop. You are just making a fool of yourself. You can’t say two things are the same because you want them to be the same.

          Video games are distinctly different from movies. You don’t participate in the movie, for one. Two, there is another person on the other end of a video game, usually. Kids are playing other humans, online….and killing them. So that’s markedly different from watching a movie.

          Yes, both contain violence, but so do commercials and cartoons.

          The two are subject of debate because they IS two different things.

          I thought I would write throwing in the word is where it doesn’t belong, since you are more comfortable with that. Heh!

          If he had said “Is Video Game Violence Making Americans More Violent”, he would have been correct, as you would have been. Because it’s singular, not plural.

          • Proof

            “Oh, please stop. You are just making a fool of yourself” I’d tell that to you, Hannignoramus, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            You said the construction is parallel, you were wrong.

          • Matthew

            It is constructed awkwardly, but it is grammatically correct. Violence is the subject and is singular. BTW attacking people for grammatical or spelling errors on a blog is petty

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            That’s your opinion.

            He singled out video games and movies and spoke about the violence in them possibly affecting our culture.

            If violence was the subject then he would have included other types of violence in the body of his post.

            He didn’t.

          • Bat One

            Both Proof and Matthew are correct and you , predictably, are wrong. Your determination in making a fool of yourself is admirable, but you are no less foolish, and no more grammatically correct for doing so.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Apples and Oranges are both fruits, but they are used as an example to highlight the differences between things…….and that’s for an effing reason.

            Sorry, Rob is wrong. That makes you wrong, along with Poof and Matt.

            If Rob would have made the subject Fruits and not certain types of fruits, he would have just said fruits. He didn’t.

          • guest

            Poor tiny hanni. So severly addicted to SAB that he’s been spending all day sucking up any attention he can get. How does it feel being Rob’s pet troll, or doesn’t it matter as long as someone talks to you?

      • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

        Sorry nut bag, but video game and Hollywood violence are two things. Or for your small mind……IS two things (Heh). Therefore, it’s plural.

        • Proof

          See? I knew you couldn’t grasp the nuance! He was speaking of the violence (singular) that is produced by Hollywood and video games.

          Thanks for once again parading your ignorance. Finish second grade, then, maybe we’ll talk.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Wow, astonishing! So if there is no difference between all types of violence, in your mind, why make a distinction between the two? Why not just say “Is Violence Making Americans More Violent”? Because they are two separate things.

            A parallel would be something like;

            He saw and read Hollywood violence.


            The killer did watch and studied Hollywood violence.

            Rob offered two different things, video game and Hollywood violence. THEREFORE, it’s plural!!

          • Proof

            You really are out of your depth here, Hannignoramus. Color is a singular word, but can imply many different shades. So it is with violence. Rob was lumping together simulated violence, whether from video games or Hollywood, your Hannidiocy, notwithstanding.

            BTW, congratulations on being able to count as high as two. You’re wrong here, but we celebrate your achievement!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Your comparison is not apt. Violence can be many different things, none of them being the same:

            Gun violence

            Video game violence

            Hollywood violence

            Violence against women

            Violence in sports (Boxing, MMA)

            None of those things are similar. They are all different things and different types of violence.

          • Proof

            Hannidiot: Hollywood and video game violence is that which can be experienced vicariously. (Look it up, Hannimbecile), as opposed to actual violence. If it weren’t for your vast Hannignorance, you might have seen that this vicarious violence is the subject of the headline.

            You may now return to your irrelevance. (Not that you ever really left!)

  • jimmypop

    one might say….. what this chart says is limited gun control (kind of guns) worked. and worked instantly. starting in 1994 when the assault weapons ban happened the chart drops back to 1970 levels.

  • chris

    I think both views are correct to an extent: violence in the media is a factor in the increase of mass murder incidents, however this doesn’t mean that people in general are getting more violent. My point is that it mostly affects people who are most vulnerable to be influenced, like children and people with mental or psychological problems, but the majority of adults and teenagers who have learned to separate fact from fiction are not as much affected. Parents and schools play a key role in making sure kids don’t get too detached from reality and constantly reminding them what is important in life. Also we have to stop giving kids “prescription” drugs as a replacement for real treatment of mental and psychological issues. These drugs are probably just as much a factor as violent movies.

  • SigFan

    Mankind has shown a proclivity for violence since the earliest recorded times – Cain and Abel. While we would like to believe we have “progressed” beyond such things what we have really done is found more sophisticated ways of wreaking violence on each other. Can the media and video games make us less sensitive to it – maybe. More likely though the times and pressures of modern society are simply reawakening primal instincts and urges that we foolishly would like to believe we no longer have.

  • chris

    I know that there isn’t really a profile for these types of people, but they do seem to have similarities: Males, around 20 years of age, Caucasian (3 out of 4 anyways), middle or upper-middle class, attending school, socially or emotionally isolated, immersed in violent games or other media, taking some kind of behavioral medication or drug, keen interest in and easy access to guns and other weapons. Maybe this is the one deadly combination that we need to watch out for in society. Maybe middle and high schools need cooperate more with parents to identify this type of student and thoroughly evaluate him, and take more action if necessary.

    • Bat One

      Chris, Your suggestion is far too reasonable and practical to ever be adopted. At least not by a liberal administration. In the first place profiling is far to discriminatory and prejudicial. Why it is even unfair! Just as importantly, liberals aren’t really interested in stopping these sorts of horrific incidents, What they are interested in instead is disarming the American public, especially those of us who refuse to worship at the altar of progressive autocracy. Which is exactly the reason the Founders included the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights.

      • chris

        If you actually believe that liberals want mass murder to happen, then there is something seriously wrong with you. 20 children were killed, and the liberals that I know are horrified and some in tears. Your type of rhetoric is partly why the GOP is loosing ground in this country. You must draw the line of decency somewhere when demonizing your political opponent or else you will continue to get yourself in trouble.

        Besides that, you have a point that maybe liberals go too far in being anti-profiling, but there is a difference between policemen profiling people on the street and school teachers singling out a specific type of student in order help improve or correct them. There is nothing wrong with giving special attention to students that statistically have some area to work on. The type of profiling that I oppose is where minorities are being targeted for search and seizure on the street just because their minority status automatically makes them suspicious.

        Also, you have it wrong on liberals and gun control. I don’t know anybody who actually supports a full-out ban on guns. We have the right to bear arms, but not just any arm at any place. I would not support the right for an individual bringing a loaded uzi machine gun into a public library, for example. The Second Amendment is not unlimited.

  • DWHoover

    So the Hollywood Left is coming against violence in video games? Are they coming out against violence in movies? I would hate to accuse someone who starred in a movie that glorifies or even portrays violence but yet doesn’t want others to carry guns in real life as having a double-standard. I would think that if I would star in a movie that would be considered violent because there is a shooting in the movie, and the movie made me millions of dollars, and I still condemned the legal carrying of guns, that I would have blood on my hands. But that is only if I had Left Logic.

    • chris

      Gun violence should only exist in movies.

      • DWHoover

        And no sane person would disagree with you. But my point is the hypocrisy of the left. We can portray violence in movies, and get rich doing it, and that is OK. But if a private citizen owns a gun, or plays video games, that is bad.

        • chris

          I don’t think most democrats oppose people owning firearms for defense purposes. The issue is regarding rapid-fire assault weapons and the ease at which one could attain one. Also, I don’t see any issue with enjoying a good shoot-em-up movie or game while at the same time condemning real-life shoot-ups. One is fantasy, the other is real-life. It’s just common sense.

          • Neiman

            “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
            State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be

            Even rapid-fire, assault type weapons can be carried by hand and qualify as being able to be beared in the arms of the person, (carried). So, there is no Constitutional way to limit or restrict them without going through the Amendment process, which is lengthy and difficult; and, unless I am mistaken, it will be nearly impossible to get sufficient states to agree. Thus, you liberals are left with limits placed by Executive Order which Obama is hinting at doing, restrictive laws as Sen. Feingold is threatening to pass; or the Judiciary seeing such limitations as being possible in the Second Amendment, all of which would be unconstitutional and I believe would cause an uprising by the people.

            The thing is the Bill of Rights were an absolute barrier to anyone placing any restrictions that would infringe on any these rights in any manner, they were in fact commanded not to pass any such laws. Without such laws an Executive Order or Judicial Order are prohibited.

            Our having guns (I have none) is not just to provide for self defense against an enemy, but also to resist tyranny by the State.

          • Bat One

            Its instructive that those on the Left are so determined NOT to address the Second Amendment or the Heller and McDonald decisions. Nor are they interested in acknowledging that the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

            In a sense, the Court’s Heller decision is to liberals what Roe v. Wade is to conservatives, the difference being that the right to keep and bear arms is explicitly stated in the Constitution, whereas the right to abortion hides behind some murky, rhetorical penumbra. And if the Left is as vexed and frustrated by the the public’s right to own guns as we are over the slaughter of innocent babies, it damn well serves them right!

          • Neiman

            Surely you expect no opposition from me?

          • chris

            The District of Columbia v. Heller is the ruling I’ve been talking about! It actually allows the limits of gun ownership! please read my statements above.

          • chris

            the problem with the Second Amendment is that it’s too open to interpretation. It uses the phrase “regulated Militia” which some people argue that only Militia has the right to bare arms, while it also says “right of the people”, which seem to refer to individuals. It took a ruling of the Supreme Court – District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) – to finally define the Second Amendment as being an individual right. However this same ruling also says that the Amendment “protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, in federal enclaves”


            As you can see, gun ownership is limited for common and reasonable use. This means that machine guns and rocket launchers can be banned. Also the ruling allows for states to perform it’s own gun control laws. I may not be explaining it very well but the information is detailed in the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling.

          • chris

            Sorry for the multiple posting, but I have to add something to my previous statement. The Supreme Court ruling that I mentioned has this particular statement:

            “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying ofdangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.”

          • Neiman

            No, the problem is that there are no restrictions and when we allow and submit to the court imposing any restrictions, it becomes a matter of partisan bias and makes the 2nd Amendment meaningless and removes it as a right at all.

          • chris

            It’s the same issue with the 1st Amendment. We cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater, nor verbally threaten to kill the president or to blow up a building, or even mention bomb on an airplane. It also has its limits, however what those limits are is open to interpretation. That is why different states have different laws regarding the freedom of incendiary speech and heavy weaponry.

          • chris

            I’d like to add that the court ruling did guarantee the right to bear handguns, and prohibited laws that would require rifles to be locked in a certain way. There are limits to what can be regulated just as there are limits to what can be owned.

          • Neiman

            I don’t believe they can be regulated without infringing on the basic right. A regulation has the force of law, which the Bill of Rights prohibit them from doing.

            They can only be amended or they are an illusion, they do not exist at all.

          • Neiman

            There you are again, allowing liberal courts to act as a legislative body, a superior branch able to write laws. There is no prohibition against crying fire in a crowded theater in the 1st Amendment, it does not exist and you allow some court to manufacture such a limit out of whole cloth, thus ending all rights to free speech.

            It is liberal courts that chip away at The Bill of Rights and they are encouraged by some misplaced idea they must be obeyed. They have no power to enforce their decisions.

            You will never accept the concept these rights outside the amendment process are inviolable.

          • chris

            Actually the “fire in a crowded theater” example is outdated. In 1969, a court ruling, called Brandenburg v. Ohio, said that:
            “government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is directed to inciting, and is likely to incite, imminent lawless action.”


          • Neiman

            “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
            State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be

            Please show me reasonable use clause in the 2nd Amendment. It seems it does not exist; and therefore, no court has the right to read anything into the 2nd Amendment, which does not exist there in actual words. To think otherwise is to endorse judicial activism, that is making the Judiciary the superior all-powerful branch in otherwise separate but equal branches government.

            It says “the people,” it says arms that can be beared (carried) and it says it cannot be infringed – period, end of subject. No, if the Constitution means anything, not even the states may regulate such arms in any manner – shape – or form, no not even gun registration, gun safety instructions or any restraint on when and where they may bear them. If they can regulate them, then every right in the Bill of Rights is subject to being infringed and abridged by such state or local governments; and, a man may not have the same free speech rights in New York as in Texas or elsewhere. That is chaos and makes the entire Bill of Rights on no effect, they are destroyed completely. Is that what you want?

            If you or other liberals, the Chief Executive, Congress, the Judiciary think people should only bear arms as defined by these various agencies and/or for uses they mandate or in any way altered from the plain reading thereof, they need to take it to the states to be amended and I do not believe the people will ever vote to alter the Bill of Rights. Any other course is tyranny, it wholly destroys our Constitution and our country.

            The question for all liberals is do you believe in and defend the Constitution, even when it needs to be changed; or, do you believe it an old document that should be destroyed and only liberals should rewrite?

          • chris

            The main issue here is that the Second Amendment was too loosely worded and had been interpreted in too many ways. Without a specific and standard definition, there would have always been confusion as to what state or federal laws, regulation, or lack of them, is considered constitutional.

            I think a “reasonable” interpretation is the best one, where individuals are guaranteed the right to bear arms, but not just any type of arm at any place. It would be unreasonable for a civilian to go into a public library with a loaded rocket launcher, for example.

  • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

    Statistics show there are more gun murders in southern red states, per capita. Clearly we see that if we reduce the number of guns in conservatives states, lives will be saved.

  • VocalYokel

    While I don’t think that video games, movies, books or other media that graphically portray violence “cause” the mayhem that seems to plague (not only US) society, I do think there is a desensitization that may result from it.

    In my opinion the root cause is a societal embrace of relativism, the concept that there is no absolute standard of right and wrong and the failure to establish the idea that if there is good, there is also evil.

  • Mark

    Bad people do bad things- period
    You can not fight bad with good.
    I have watched bad movies, bad videos, witnessed bad things as we all have and more of us have not done bad things like killing children or co workers or spouses. It’s not movies, working moms, guns, booze, drugs, it’s simply bad people.

  • Mark

    Or is it
    Bad peoples do bad things?

  • Mark

    I will blame our drive by media
    How many abortions where performed in ND last year
    Compared to shot by a gun

  • Eric

    A couple of thoughts that I had on this article. How is violent crime crime described? Does medical technology of today reduce the murder rate from shootings? Is the number of guns higher or lower per capita than they were in the 1950’s? Given the trend of guns per capita does that fit with a correlation between guns and murder rate. I don’t know the answer to these questions but the article seems incomplete.