I do certainly think the signposting of the "rules of conduct" could be much more clearly displayed, and I do think that moderators, most of the time, are fairly good at what they do. However, I do think that there needs to be a degree of self-moderation, and I'm sorry, but I really don't think the playerbase en masse has it in them to be given that amount of responsibility.
As much as I would like to see a cleaner, fresher, more intellectual and deep place of conversation, as you say - I really don't hold out much hope. There's just so many variables; had a bad day at the office? Come to the TOR forums and snipe at people. Just split up with your girlfriend? It's TOR's fault, and anyone who says otherwise or gets in your way eats word-bullets.
As I type this, it becomes clear to me that as far as MMOs go, unless you're reporting a problem in the "Bugs and glitches" section, you don't want to touch the online community with a 10-foot pole. I'm only here myself because I believe fervently in what you say and suggest. Perhaps I'm being harsh. Perhaps I'm being lenient, that's for the readers and the people who digest the threads to decide.
But honestly? I don't know. I truly wish it could change, but sadly, forums are usually a fairly good cross-section of society. And society has got it's fair share of dross.
None of us can solve this problem. If enough of us work together, the best we can hope for is to vaguely steer the community in a certain direction. However, as interactions between other people matters in this type of game, even a small change would be welcome.
If you feel it is not worth your effort, that is certainly your call to make. That is certainly the decision most people will make whether or not they read this thread. However, if everyone makes that decision, then this community will
remain what you describe. The other way there is at least a chance for improvement however small.
It starts by remembering that the other person matters, even if they are being a jerk.