This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: Usually, the best way to handle incivility is to ignore it.|
- This is advice for those who are on the receiving end of uncivil comments; it is in no way to be taken as an endorsement for being uncivil.
Enforcement of the civility policy has become one of many administrators' favourite games on Wikipedia. I'm afraid that, contrary to their beliefs, it's not a terribly helpful one. The habit of patrolling for incivility is an easy one to get into: it's easy, especially for newer admins, to treat incivility rather like vandalism; i.e., as something you patrol for, and when you see it, you slap a templated warning on the offender's talk page, and then block them if they keep doing it. But it's just not that simple. Civility exists in degrees, and what one user finds unacceptably uncivil may not be viewed as such by another. That's why civility blocks are frequently controversial, especially when of established users with a history of contributions to the encyclopedia. Those devoted to civility patrol also have a tendency to shoot the first uncivil user they run across without noting the cause: often, the user has a legitimate grievance and may have been baited. I'll not claim that grievances and baitings excuse uncivil behaviour, but blocking a user for incivility and leaving the underlying issue unresolved is inefficient and results in driving away good contributors who make slips in the area of civility. Furthermore, civility blocks rarely solve any problems. The user tends to return even more angry than before and more ready to make uncivil remarks.
As an alternative to civility blocks, I suggest an alternative remedy: Ignore users when they are being uncivil. Uncivil users may be looking for a response when they behave uncivilly. Deny them this. Block them, and you just fuel the fire; ignore them, and you deprive the fire of fuel. Go away from them and proofread an article for a bit.
For those who insist that one cannot ignore uncivil users: Why not, pray? There is some misbehaviour on Wikipedia we indeed cannot ignore: vandalism, as doing so would result in our encyclopedia being trashed, to be blunt; edit warring, as it is the tool of POV-pushers to bias our articles in their favour and leaves our articles unstable. Both of those behaviours damage articles, which is what we're here for. Incivility does not do this. It does have the risk of harming our community, though if we'd be a bit more thick-skinned and ready to ignore it, it wouldn't. (Incivility to new users is an exception, to be sure; this needs to be dealt with a bit more strongly.)
I don't want to completely discount the use of blocks in the case of incivility, mind you. For example, no one should think twice about blocking an account created solely to make uncivil remarks (after all, this is nothing more than trolling). And it's perfectly reasonable to take incivility into account when considering whether a user is being disruptive in general (in particular if the user is edit warring). Nonetheless, blocks based purely on civility issues where the user has any valuable contributions at all typically cause more problems than they solve.