Two contrasting images of the UK were presented this month.
First, the view of a supposedly dispassionate outsider: Newsweek magazinedubbed the green and pleasant land "Grimsville", describing troubled sink estates and raging youths.
The second, a new piece of propaganda from our leaders: the Great Britain campaign - which comes with an emphatically upper case GREAT and flagrant use of the Union flag. This is an advertising campaign that references Britain's great entrepreneurs - Richard Branson; its heritage - Henry VIII; and its knowledge base - four of the world's top 10 universities; as well as its music and landscape.
Neither would be recognised or endorsed by most UK residents.
The government's £510,000 (Dh2.9 million) marketing campaign intends to make the most of the attention the world will turn on London for the Olympic Games next year. The idea is to boost the image of London as a great place to visit and to do business, and the creators of the campaign claim it could prompt a £1 billion visitor and/or trade dividend.
Of course, there is also the urgent need to correct the unfortunate image conveyed in August, when a minority of youths rioted and tore up their own neighbourhoods.
The idea behind the GREAT campaign is familiar enough. In 1998, Newsweek had a very different take. Rather than Grimsville, it followed other international publications and put "Cool Britannia" on its cover, in tribute to the country where youth culture, art, pop and fashion were setting trends around the world and where creativity and commercialism were intersecting with great success.
Newsweek was far behind the "cool" kids on this one: its cover was a full 20 months after Vanity Fair's March 1997 Cool Britannia cover, featuring Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit, a musician and an actress couple, who apparently captured the zeitgeist but have since split.
Tony Blair milked the notion of Britain as a cultural trailblazer and innovator, but the buzz around Britain had more to do with the country having turned an economic corner than with anything "New" Labour had brought to the party.
And now David Cameron, the prime minister who heads the coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat government, is trying to foster a similar patina of cultural cool - putting the GREAT back into Great Britain. It's straight out of the "Buy British" handbook that has been the thrust of many a government campaign, from the British Leyland Mini to the recent tub-thumping over the giant wings of the A380 - keeping Emirates Airline's shiny new jets aloft but built in Britain.
It's easy to be scathing about this poster blitz. The British tradition of modesty and cynicism demands it. Winners do not need to say they are winners, Brits are taught from a young age.
Yet it is worth shouting about the country's wares overseas. It is not because British business is the best in the world - it isn't - but it has been, in quite recent times, an exciting place to live and work, a good stable place to do business, where the rule of law is transparent and respected.
Britain has a track record of attracting significantly more foreign investment than many of its neighbours.
However, the global economic downturn has taken its toll. In 2009, foreign businesses invested £46bn in the UK, down on 2008's figures, and inward direct investment dropped to the lowest level for five years, official statistics show. Sadly, the news last week that BAE Systems, one of Britain's most successful manufacturers, was laying off 3,000 people underlined the great difference between Mr Cameron's Great Britain and Mr Blair's Cool Britannia. In 1997 the country was at the start of a prolonged period of growth and prosperity.
Right here, right now, Brits can't even see green shoots. Unemployment is rising and many more job cuts are to come. Lending to small businesses is restricted and the housing market is, apart from some London hot spots, moribund. Avoiding being dragged into another recession by damaged euro-zone neighbours is the main challenge, while pessimists fear very low or zero growth for as long as a decade.
Britannia will be wrapping the flag tighter about her shoulders to keep out the economic chill before the country can afford to go draping it from the rooftops.