Over the course of the second half of the 20th century Mrs. Marty Mann and her National Council on Alcohol (NCA) became the best known public advocates of the disease concept of alcoholism in the United States. Mann’s great campaign, however, harbored a vexing rhetorical weakness.
From its outset–with NCA’s (1) launch in the autumn of 1944–Mann’s organization purported to convey ostensibly sound scientific knowledge and facts about alcoholism to the American public. Mann was a publicist, not a scientist; more to the point, scientific knowledge about alcoholism (including even whether such a phenomenon might confidently be said to exist) was scant and unreliable. This awkward behind-the-scenes circumstance created some equally awkward and unlikely back-stage interactions between NCA and the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies.