It seems that anytime you get classical musicians or composers together on an online forum the topic, or really the flame inducing debate, of atonal vs. tonal music comes up. Though atonal music (or to use the more inclusive term post-tonal) has been around for about 100 years, there seems to be no end to the number of pages of post, rebuttals, counter arguments, and comments these threads generate. This "debate" goes far beyond just threads about the topic. Any mention of atonality vs. tonality anywhere near classical music (i.e. comment section on articles, youtube videos, and Facebook post) there are many fervent commentators ready to start the back and forth on this issue. This dichotomy is also present in real life situations. The near decade I have been in college I have seen this debate divide schools of music. While other professors advocate new music, others go as far as forbidding or refusing to teach new music to their students. There are even books and scholarly journal articles that pit the two against each other.
But this thread isn't about the merits of tonality and atonality, this thread is about the why.
It appears on the surface that there is no reason to not like both. It is very reminiscent of many other dichotomies in pop culture:
Star Wars vs. Star Treck
West Coast Rap vs. East Coast Rap
Marvel vs. DC
Beetles vs. Rolling Stones
Band Geeks vs. Orchestra Dork vs. Choir Nerds
Why is this such a hot button issue in the music world (be it mostly online music world)? What is gained through these debates? What does engaging in this debate say about us? Does this dichotomy expose our insecurities about our own music, or show our need to be superior by tearing down the styles of others? Or is it just human nature to simplify a complex issue like post-tonality and reduce it down to a binary?