77th Brigade revisited

77th_Brigade_logo (1)

“The personnel of 77th Brigade is not that of your typical military unit.

Soldiers in the 77th Brigade, which was formed in 2015, are based in Berkshire and spend their time producing video and audio content, using data to understand how the public receives different messages, and creating “attitude and sentiment awareness” from large sets of social media data

One of their most infamous members is Gordon MacMillan, a Senior Twitter executive. He joined the social media company’s UK office in 2013, and has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war.

The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to conduct what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level” and to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences.

What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees t  o pursue external interests”. The MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.

The current training regime of the soldiers is unclear. Back in 2008, an annual report by 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group showed that there was a “robust training” going on for all incoming troops, and current ones as well.

This involved internal, as well as external trainings.”


There is something vaguely ominous about all this.  The US capability to do similar things is spread all over the government; CIA, USAID, Army Psyops, USIA, etc.

This UK thing is consolidated, has a lot of social media people and academics as reservists and has the typical clubbiness of British upper class institutions.  I wonder what the tie looks like.

The White Helmet film company has to be connected to this as well as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Interesting.  pl


This entry was posted in The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to 77th Brigade revisited

  1. Deap says:

    Whisky ..Tango… Foxtrot?

  2. james says:

    and as far as i am concerned the UK and USA are tied at the hip in all of this too… sad kettle of fish when your own country is propagandizing you.. 5 eyes is like the blind leading the blind at this point…

  3. akaPatience says:

    Great. More sources of gaslighting and censorship. Just what’s needed to advance authoritarianism and thwart democracy.
    I read some thought-provoking comments somewhere yesterday that essentially said if leftists’ ideas were truly popular, why do they have to resort to censorship, election fraud and other unscrupulous means?

  4. So we’ve come full circle to the subject of the article I posted damned near exactly four years ago. That one got a lot of people’s panties in a twist. Propaganda. Information operations. The theory of reflexive control. We all do it. Rather than using pamphlets and loudspeakers, we now use the internet and social media. The difference lies in the speed and spread of these “dark arts” in the world today. That and the complete obliteration of the line between tactical and strategic in this field.

  5. English Outsider says:

    77 Brigade! I remember it well.
    Used to be that little chat rooms would pop up on the internet run by employees of this or that organisation. I remember one run by a senior police officer that was devoted to the dubious doings of even more senior officers. That one got taken down suddenly when the doings spoken of got a bit too dubious.
    I imagine that having spent the best part of his career feeling collars the blogging Inspector found an irate superior feeling his. The entire site, back numbers and all, disappeared in a flash and was never seen again.
    Similarly a few years back I happened upon a chat room allegedly run by army personnel. At that time 77 Brigade was putting the word out that it was needing staff. The comments weren’t enthusiastic. Housing tricky. Terrible commute. It’d be no more than “Three men and a Doris in a hut”. And the comments then tailed off into a seemingly well-informed discussion about the local talent in the Aldershot area.
    So well informed that, knowing how interested Army men are in that subject, I marked the site down as possibly genuine. Probably was genuine too, since that chat room disappeared in a flash as well.
    So I took something of a proprietorial interest in 77 Brigade. Adopted it, one might say. When submitting comments to English sites on Brexit (Don’t go there. Could be the saddest subject on the planet.) I was sometimes accused of being a troll for Brussels. Or of course for Putin. I would rebut all such suggestions by proudly announcing I was with 77 Brigade and the tea was dreadful. I remembered Doris, you see, and something told me that tea-making wasn’t one of her strengths.
    And now my draughty hut (I had imagined typewriters and bulky coding machines but that would surely be anachronistic) has morphed into just another part of the squalid world of information warfare. From Oxbridge and Dearlove and Halpern and the select souls in academia down through the media and the think tanks and right down to the scrubby little subsidised websites and the Bellingcats. Your article has substituted reality for my cosy little troll farm and I suppose I’ll have to give my allegiance to the BND now or some such boring outfit.
    Shame. Not something one would mention to SHMBO but I’d always got on well with Doris.

  6. Cortes says:

    “the typical clubbiness of British upper class institutions” reference made me wonder if the current Gordon MacMillan might not be a grandson of
    and thus part of a service family over several generations.
    I have heard suggestions that in “retirement” Sir Gordon MacMillan was encouraged to engage in gentlemanly lobbying on behalf of local, beleaguered Clyde shipbuilding yards when tenders for constructing new vessels were issued by HMG up to around 1980.

  7. Effinghell says:

    It can be quite good sport finding their interactions, they have shall we say, a certain style. Some are good at spotting the tell tell signs, in such cases you will see 77 in the reply.

  8. Fred says:

    So how active in interfering, indirectly of course have they been this cycle? Or should I say since GCHQ’s man Christopher Steele failed in that other operation Her Majesty’s Government (cough, cough) was not involved in?

  9. Personanongrata says:

    The White Helmet film company has to be connected to this as well as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.,/i>
    What about the worthless turd-hole known as Eliot Higgins at Bellingcat?
    PS In 2012 a collection of pliably supine cretins (ie 112th US Congress) passed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 which was then enacted into law by The Great Pretender (ie Obama)when he signed the 2012 NDAA.
    Italicized/bold text was excerpted from foreignpolicy.com a report titled:
    U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans
    For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts.

  10. TV says:

    I worked with an Englishman (with a name like Trevor, had to be English) whose brother was in the British Army, reached the rank of Lt. Col.
    Told that he couldn’t go any higher – wrong accent.
    This was in the 1990s.

  11. Barbara Ann says:

    Domestic propaganda – Another wonderful legacy from the War on Terror.
    The 2017 NDAA of course included the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act which set up the Global Engagement Center (part of State). Its original name was the suitably Orwellian “Center for Information Analysis and Response”. The GEC’s original mandate* was to counter the ISIS narrative overseas, but of course after Trump’s election and Russiagate came along there was a clamor to have it fight Russian IO’s domestically. Here is the NYT from 2018, for example, calling for it to “..counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy”. Yes, because Orange-Man-so-bad-he-must-have-been-elected-by-a-hostile-foreign-power, the free press calls for Americans to be propagandized with goodthink. What is this other than a prototype for the Ministry of Truth? The contrast with the tone in the FP article and its linked 2012 BuzzFeed article could not be more stark.
    The “supine cretins” would do well to recognize that in a free society the best/only way to counter information warfare is to educate the citizenry in the skills of critical thinking, so that they can recognize propaganda, whatever the source.
    * https://web.archive.org/web/20160501143138/https://www.state.gov/r/gec/

  12. marhias alexander says:

    “There is something vaguely ominous about all this.”
    Surely not?!

  13. LondonBob says:

    Fred it is very much preferable Trump wins due to his fondness for his mother’s homeland and support for Brexit. Then again like every other nation’s political class there is a deep loathing for Trump that will easily trump any concern for the national interest, the ego of a politician will always come first.
    So whilst there is much to be concerned about with the Irish and Indian backgrounds of Biden and Harris, both have a deep resentment towards us, many in the political class will welcome a return to business as usual that Biden represents, they will then be free to continue running the Western world in to the ground.
    Notable how joyful the neocons are at the thought of Trump losing, I guess a risk he might go rogue second term and Biden/Harris will do as they are told.

  14. harry says:

    “the war of narratives”.
    Wouldnt it be easier to just tell the truth?

  15. English Outsider says:

    Fred – I think procedure is all fairly well established by now.
    When it comes to the scrubby stuff in the information warfare world the Americans farm it out to the Brits. Who in turn farm it out to that Intelligence half-world consisting of retired officers and the “consultants” and other chancers they pick up here and there. Any amount of “look no hands” right down the line. I think the Americans farm it out because they’re leaky as hell whereas the Brits can keep it sealed up tight as a drum.
    Hence that masterpiece of omerta you refer to, the Steele affair. I think Nunes had a go at getting at the UK end of that but generally it’s been buried six foot deep.
    HMG had to know. If not before the dossier came out, they had to know after. You don’t get retired MI6 officers wandering about that publicly in the electoral scene in the States without HMG noticing. And Dearlove was so uncharacteristically gabby afterwards that the notion that Steele was fooling around solo doesn’t fly.
    Nor does the notion fly that Dearlove himself was freelancing outside the official machinery. Giving Steele a “safe house” with all the trimmings was as good a way as any as saying, “This is official”.
    So the omerta slipped a bit. Reading David Habakkuk here, who’s seriously into this stuff, we might guess it was panic stations this end for a while. No worries now. With Biden in it’ll be buried six foot deeper and for good measure concreted over.

  16. Fred says:

    They’ll have to bury Trump and others 6 feet under to keep their secret. Then they will have to figure out what to do with millions of people who voted for him. A bit late for that option now I think.

  17. English Outsider says:

    Colonel – apologies. “as good a way as any of saying”. My proof reading is not good.
    Barbara Ann – if it was you who got rid of those italics left hanging on the Colonel’s comment section, might I ask how you did it? I tried and my method didn’t work.

  18. David Habakkuk says:

    Actually one should not overestimate the ‘upper class’ element in this.
    A great deal of what has been involved, over here, has to do with some not really very bright Arrmy people – step forward, General Sir Nick Carter – swallowing ‘snake oil’ disseminated by (intellectually) corrupt people from the worlds of academia and the ‘media of communication.’
    The origins of such people are genuinely ‘diverse’ – unlike their ideas.
    So, a central organisation in delivering propaganda, partly to foreign audiences but also crucially to the British population, is the ‘Integrity Initiative’ – a name worthy of Orwell – to which indeed the ‘South Front’ article refers.
    They key figure in this, a natural ‘intermediary’ between the military and other worlds, is the erstwhile Director of the ‘Soviet Studies Research Centre’ at Sandhurst, Christopher Donnelly. He is a product of Manchester University, and before that of the Cardinal Langley Roman Catholic High School in Middleton, then run by the ‘De La Salle Brothers.’
    Earlier in his career, he was a ‘special adviser’ of some moment to successive NATO Secretaries-General.
    For a sceptical account of Donnelly’s activities, including links to some of the frankly bonkers ‘Integrity Initiative’ documents, see
    Another key organisation is the ‘King’s Centre for Strategic Communications’ at King’s College, London, which describes itself as the ‘the leading global centre of excellence on strategic communications’, and whose Director is a former BBC and ITV television producer turned academic, Dr Neville Bolt.
    (See https://www.kcl.ac.uk/research/kings-centre-for-strategic-communication for details, including some good examples of the ‘bullshit’ that ‘academics’ in these ‘disciplines’ frequently talk.)
    The ‘War Studies Department’, with which it is associated, is largely the creation of Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, KCMG CBE PC FBA, who played a major role in our disastrous interventions first in Yugoslavia and then in Iraq.
    He is of East European Jewish origin, also went to Manchester, where (according to reliable information) he was a fiery radical, and had his schooling at Whitley Bay Grammar School on Tyneside.
    Another key figure in the development of ‘StratCom’, currently Director of the ‘Communications Division’ at SHAPE, having spent a decade as ‘Chief Strategic Communications’, is the former BBC Radio Defence Correspondent Mark Laity.
    Educated at York University and Redruth Grammar School, Laity is very much – and genuinely – a Cornishman.
    Having crossed paths with him at the BBC, at the outset of his time as a Defence Correspondent, one fault of which I would happily acquit him is snobbery.
    However, the kind of presentations he gives to NATO military people, with titles like ‘Bocca della veritas [sic] or Perception becomes Reality’, embody some of the fundamental problems with ‘Strategic Communications’, even more clearly than the website of the ‘King’s Centre.’
    ( See https://shape.nato.int/about/leadership-staff/directorates/communications-division )
    Another presentation, also entitled ‘Perception becomes reality …’ given in October 2014, in the wake of the second Ukrainian ‘Colour Revolution’, includes slides from an address given by the Russian Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, at the Russian MoD’s Third Moscow Conference on International Security the previous May.
    (See https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjt3snw9I7tAhV0sXEKHfWSAgEQFjADegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cmdrcoe.org%2Fdownload.php%3Fid%3D336&usg=AOvVaw1UDUlnAEbNBHqYQWvGAD4t )
    The slides in question were obtained by Anthony Cordesman, who attended the meeting and produced a lengthy report on the ‘Center for Strategic and International Studies’ website.
    (See https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/140529_Russia_Color_Revolution_Full.pdf .)
    What Cordesman was trying to tell an American audience was that Gerasimov, and others, might mean precisely what they said.
    As is commonly the case with ‘Strategic Communications’, however, Laity was talking propaganda while doing everything possible to persuade others, and probably himself, that he was telling ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ – the point of the ‘Bocca della Verità’ image.
    And he was happy to assume, despite what Cordesman said, that Gerasimov was also engaged in some kind of ‘silly-clever’ contest of ‘narratives.’
    One endemic hasard of such an approach is that one ends up believing one’s own propaganda. Another is that one ends up completely without the intellectual tools required to draw reasonably reliable inferences from what people say about what they actually think.
    In my opinion, there are very major risks involved when people like Laity – or indeed Neville Bolt – encourage impressionable military men to think that they should operate like this. So, ‘perception becomes reality’ is actually what is commonly more dangerous than a simple falsehood – an half-truth.
    Moreover, living in a kind of semi-fantasy ‘information war’ environment is a very poor background to having to think about concrete issues to do with fighting, and making contingency plans for, actual conflict.
    In Laity’s case, it seemed beyond his capacity to imagine that, at this point, Gerasimov – who is not just a highly experienced staff officer but rather clearly a figure of a very great deal more intellectual power than the likes of Sir Nick Carter – might be saying quite precisely what he meant: as I think he was doing.
    Still less did it appear to occur to Laity that some of the arguments made at the conference might indeed raise genuine questions about the wisdom of some of policies eagerly advocated by Christopher Donnelly, Sir Lawrence Freedman, and himself over the previous generation.
    In stressing the ‘multiculturalism’ of ‘StratCom’ in Britain, I stress, I do not mean to suggest that the ‘upper class twit’ element is absent.
    Actually, origins are very often a highly erratic predictor of ideas. So I could cite figures of similar origins to those of Freedman whose views are utterly different – and some of whom I much respect.
    And indeed, it was a contact of Irish Catholic origins rather similar to Donnelly’s, but of very different views, who, when we were discussing some of the more lunatic ‘Integrity Initiative’ materials, suggested to me that perhaps their author believed that he was refighting the ‘Battle on the Ice.’
    Irrespective of whether that judgement is correct, it now seems reasonably clear that the very many important people in Russia have indeed interpreted the ‘communications’ produced by Donnelly and his like as vindicating a central strategic calculation of the victor in that battle, Alexander Nevsky.
    This was indeed a theme of the very interesting little book on ‘Russia’ which the Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Dmitri Trenin, himself I think Jewish, published last year.
    If faced with the choice, and there is no alternative to ‘vassaldom’, Trenin suggested, his countrymen are likely to decide, as Nevsky did, that ‘Mongols’ are very definitely preferable to ‘Crusaders.’
    One of the morals, I think, is that ‘Strategic Communication’, whether directed at foreign or domestic audiences, needs to be based on an imaginative grasp of how messages are received – something the kind of ‘Volapuk’ its practitioners habitually talk does not encourage.

  19. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    thanks. Please tell us what there is to know of Malloch Brown. BTW, he is presumable a life peer? Why?

  20. John Credulous says:

    TTG, in reference to “The Russian Concept of Reflexive Control”
    See it applied practically – a 64 second video – between the two “opponents” there is no contact – pure triggering the other guy’s reflexes:
    Prerequisite – instinctual understanding of reflexive behavior.
    Even Better, with verbal translation
    Mikhail Ryabko controlling attacker’s muscles:

  21. David Habakkuk says:

    The reason why Mark Malloch Brown was made a life peer is, I think, likely to have been that in our system, it is necessary for ministers to be directly answerable to Parliament.
    In June 2007, when Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister, Malloch Brown (no relation, obviously!) was appointed as Minister of State at the FCO, with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the United Nations.
    As he had extensive experience of all three areas, at first sight at least, there was nothing surprising, or reprehensible, in the new PM following a more ‘American’ model and having a minister, in an important portfolio, who had not been elected to the Commons.
    And installing Malloch Brown in the ‘Upper House’ would have been a perfectly natural and proper thing to do.
    A closer look at his ‘CV’, however, would have filled me foreboding, even had I read it outside of the context of ‘Russiagate.’
    I have been attempting to assimilate the material in the piece which Matthew Ehret published on the ‘Strategic Culture Foundation’ site on 17 November, and follow up some of the leads there and elsewhere.
    (See https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/11/17/lord-malloch-brown-revealed-the-british-hand-behind-coup-shows-its-scales-again/ .)
    There is a relevant contrast with the three figures I discussed in my previous comment.
    So, unlike them, Malloch Brown is a kind of ‘toff’ – although not really any kind of ‘standard issue’ British kind.
    According to ‘Wikipedia’, his father, an erstwhile South African diplomat, was in exile from his native country when his son was born, in London, in 1953. The relevance of the African background to his subsequent career looks as though it may be complex, and worth exploring.
    His education and early career, however, follow a familiar British pattern. After attending Marlborough, a famous ‘public school’ whose pupils have included the Duchess of Cambridge, Malloch Brown took a ‘First’ in history at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and then did a Masters in ‘Political Science’ at Michigan.
    Shortly afterwards, he became political correspondent of ‘The Economist.’
    This was already a ‘red light’ for me, as that paper, and to a somewhat lesser extent the ‘Financial Times’, gave me something of a shock at the time of the retreat and collapse of Soviet power.
    People whose politics I had thought were not so far from my own – which in those days might have been loosely called ‘conservative liberal’ – suddenly revealed themselves as displaying a postively ‘neo-Bolshevik’ belief that simply toppling deeply unloveable ‘authoritarian’ systems would magically create some kind of ‘nirvana.’
    Also, many such people have displayed – time and again – their inability to display any kind of ‘empathy’ – which may or may not mean imply ‘sympathy’ – for ‘deplorables’, be they in Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, or wherever.
    In so doing, they have done nobody any favours, not even, looking longer term, themselves. I got censored by the ‘Financial Times’, I think it was before ‘Brexit’, when I suggested that contemporary Western élites made the pre-1789 French aristocracy look ‘ear to the ground’ and ‘in touch.’
    If such people had not decided that they could safely ignore the discontents which to anyone who bothered to look had been visibly building for decades, then then there would not have been a ‘Brexit’, or indeed the election of Donald Trump.
    Looking at Maddoch Brown’s career after his initial stint at the ‘Economist’ aroused further suspicions.
    My current, very preliminary, ‘SWAG’ is that he may be a kind of British ‘Alden Pyle’ figure.
    Without wanting to express regret that none of the the inhabitants of the polities in whose murky political intrigues he became entangled have resorted to drastic methods to counter Malloch Brown’s activities, I think it quite possible that his career may illustrate ‘degenerative dynamics’ whose early stages Graham Greene’s novel charts.
    The fact that such people characteristically become involved in intrigues too deep for them, in which they are liable to find that rather than being the ‘dog’ they are the ‘tail’, is liable to create very good ‘rational’ reasons for ‘cover-up.’
    This reinforces the pressures towards acting with a complete lack of scruple, arising from their very limited understanding characteristic of how the ‘hoi polloi’, both in foreign societies and their own, think and act, and their consequent inability to cope with the ‘populist revolts’ which their own incomprehension fuels.
    (The appalling treatment of Lieutenant-General Flynn by a whole range of people, on both sides of the Atlantic, may I think have been eminently ‘rational’, from their point of view, seen against this background: he was simply too dangerous.)
    Moreover, once one has placed a great deal of faith in the use of ‘political technologies’ to influence voters, and one discovers that they are failing to deliver, it may not be so large a step to take to look for ways to exploit modern technologies to do, more effectively, what has been done by crude means at a local level for years.
    But, until I have a better grasp of the evidence relating to Dominion, Smartmatic, and Soros, I am not in a position to be clear as to quite how the suspicions which have been raised about the role of Malloch Brown in election manipulation, by Ehret and others, are justified.
    Where a naive faith in the possibilities of technology ends, and the deliberate cynical exploitation of very real possibilities for corruption technological development can create begins, is often not easy to determine.
    There is one reservation I have about the Ehret article, which is related to the mixed feelings I have had, over the years, about much of the material produced by people associated with the late Lyndon LaRouche.
    They have been, in my view, absolutely right in seeing the interrelations between elements pursuing ‘covert’ strategies in the United Kingdom and United States as central to making sense of recent history. And I have found that the work they have produced has turned up a very great body of very valuable information – just as Ehret has done.
    However, the ‘narrative’ into which they ‘fit’ – sometimes one might indeed say ‘shoehorn’ – this evidence, in which innocent Americans are led astray by devious, Machiavellian ‘Brits’, very often, in my view, fails to justice to the complexities of the interactions involved.
    Over the past months, moreover, I have become increasingly concerned that this ‘narrative’ can be exploited by those individuals and groups in your country who have been most intimately involved in ‘The Plot Against the President’, to use Lee Smith’s title, to, in effect, get off ‘scot-free’: or at least, with no more than a ‘slap on the wrist.’
    What Christopher Steele rather clearly suggested, in his responses to his cross-examination by Hugh Tomlinson, QC, on behalf of the Alfa ‘oligarchs’, back in March, was that his ‘co-conspirators’ were colluding to make him the ‘patsy’ in relation to ‘Russiagate.’
    In my view, there would, in this, be a certain of ‘poetic justice.’ It may very well be, however, that, on this point at least, Steele is, essentially, telling the truth.
    And if he is, then those who in one way or another give aid and comfort to the ‘patsy’ strategy may make it materially easier for a Biden Administration to obscure the collusion between people at the top of your law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and the Democratic leadership, which, in my view, is central to ‘Russiagate.’

Comments are closed.