joe: [civil comment]
bob: [uncivil response]
joe: [uncivil response]
symmetry or no? they both said something uncivil to each other.
answer is no. none at all. bob responded to something civil with something uncivil. joe just responded in kind.
joe: nice weather, isn't it?
bob: what would a fucking jew know about weather?
joe: fuck you
see? joe's uncivil comment is totally justified by bob's which isn't justified. "who started it" makes all the difference (no matter what some leftists and teachers would have us think) (not to imply that more than 1% of teachers aren't leftists)
note also that joe doesn't "lose the moral highground" or "lower himself to bob's level" when he says something uncivil. doesn't lose highground b/c he's acting just fine and bob is acting badly. not lowering himself b/c what he did is diff than what bob did. the misconception there is the bad thing is uncivil comments. it's not. it's using them at inappropriate times, for example in response to a perfectly civil comment. shouldn't be an ass to someone who's being friendly. being an ass is fine other times.
This is true as it stands, but there's a lot more to the issue. In particular you don't address the issue of what is appropriate *strength* in the incivility. Or the issue of pre-existing relationship.