God knows we're not the only country afflicted, but it is hard to imagine anywhere possessed by a more acute case of fretfulness about its international reputation than the plucky South Pacific nation of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Alongside weather and sport, most of our news outlets could plausibly add the category Something Some Random Person Said About Us In International Media.

This is not entirely without rationale. Our two biggest export industries, dairy and tourism, depend heavily on national image.

But it's all tied up with our old friend cultural cringe. It springs from the same punch-above-our-weight anxiety epitomised by those Steinlager ads back in the day.


The slogan: "They're drinking our beer here" complete with barely plausible photographs of people in exotic locations drinking Steinlager — New Zealand's national beer quite naturally being named after a German mug.

It springs from the same weird and jealous sense of nationhood that spurs our deep thinkers to lambast any New Zealander in the international spotlight who strays from the patriotic pastoral — Mike Joy was an "economic traitor", Taika Waititi was "treasonous", Eleanor Catton, most memorably of all, "an ungrateful hua". Truly we are blessed.

It might even spring from the same sort of place that leads a major district health board, say, to appoint a hugely problematic candidate who applies from overseas. That's just a hunch.

But when it comes to offshore stories about New Zealand, online media ensures a steady supply. It's free and easy to get NZ cameos in international nuggets delivered to your inbox — though you know it's time to delete a longstanding Google News Alert when sweeps of the internet for "John Key" become dominated by headlines like "Charlestown marks 275 years with historical re-enactment" and "Deputies Sport Beards To Benefit Shop With A Cop". At least Jacinda Ardern is a less common name.

This week's edition of meaningless-foreign-blogger-causing-a-froth came in the form of a post by Jared Dillian, a US trader whose thoughts on the world are hosted by Forbes.com, just for the clicks and giggles.

Dillian, whose background includes trading for the catastrophic Lehman Brothers, reckoned the arrival of a Labour government in New Zealand beckoned a recession: "Investors will probably want to avoid".

National finance spokesperson Steven Joyce was quick yesterday to caution against taking a distant and unfamiliar voice very seriously, but not before a host of opponents of the government, including several of his own MP colleagues, had eagerly circulated it as somehow authoritative.

It was very much a re-run of the 2014 Forbes.com post that declared the New Zealand economy to be a bubble about to pop.


That similarly delighted zealous opponents of the National government, even when it was pointed out that the blogger in question appeared to have a business model based on pointing at every country in the world, one at a time, bellowing "bubble".

The random dude on Forbes saying New Zealand is hurtling towards a leftwing hellfire came shortly after the random dude on the Washington Post saying New Zealand is hurtling towards a rightwing hellfire.

To be fair to Ben Mack, an American expatriate in New Zealand, his article published in the Post online was going fine until the first sentence. "A shadow is poisoning Middle-earth," it went. Run, Frodo! The shadow, it is poisoning!

From there, the column was a carnival of piffle — as even the briefest of glances at the Labour-NZ First coalition would confirm.

Winston Peters had "held the country for ransom", meaning "the real power lies with the far right", wrote Mack.

However objectionable some of what Peters has said might be, he is not on any reading "far right", and if what Mack really meant was he's a populist, that would be closer to the truth, but in an international context, our populist party is blissfully moderate.

Anyone with half an eye on Germany today, meanwhile, would realise what nonsense it is to suggest that Peters had unreasonably drawn out coalition negotiations.

This was less trivial than the Forbes stuff, too — most readers of the Washington Post expect something with more of a footing in, you know, facts.

"Democracy dies in darkness", goes the hallowed masthead's slogan. Democracy hardly thrives in a tub of bullshit, either.

The tale of the Shadow-Poison Destroying Middle-Earth may have been the most egregious example of New Zealand misrepresented in the foreign press (and the Post swiftly published a rebuttal), but it had competition.

Among other lowlights recently surveyed have been USA Today's description of Ardern as a "Trump-like" leader, the Australian Financial Review's description of the election result as "NZ's Brexit", and the Australian newspaper's heroic headline "Kiwis now led by a Commie".

And yet, if I'm honest, I'm as addicted as anyone to all this. There's a sub-genre of the Something Some Random Person Said About Us In International Media category, which might be called Indignantly Denouncing Something Some Random Person Said About Us In International Media. And I'm in deep.

In the main, though, coverage of New Zealand in the world is probably fine, if a little condescending.

Jacinda Ardern's indiscreet revelations around being mistaken by Donald Trump for Justin Trudeau's wife, particularly when combined with the deft faint-praise shade thrown his way, might amount to something except that, well, it's only little New Zealand — and in any case, assuming Trump did do that, it ranks fairly low in such a bumper catalogue of misogyny.

The sober and slightly disappointing reality is that until such time as Winston Peters, the Pike River liberation soot still fresh under his nails, single-handedly unshackles North Korea, no one really notices us much at all.

I would submit, by way of supporting evidence, an online story from the Herald this month, which describes a couple on the Australian game show The Wall, who stood to win $520,000 simply by answering one simple multiple-choice question: What is the capital of New Zealand?

They went for Christchurch.