From a comment on the Golden Compass post below:
"Certain characters deliberately cause suffering and death to innocent victims, and it seems to me that the book excuses those crimes because they were in the service of a greater, noble purpose."
It is very true that brutality is such a common element of this world that we barely notice it. How many of the men Dirty Harry kills did he really need to kill? And how many in the audience really cares? While I am on the back of Clint Eastwood, I was gravely disappointed in Unforgiven. This film was a brilliant anti-violence movie... all up until the last five minutes when it suddenly turned 180 degrees and became a pro-violence movie, so the audience could revel in the brutal shooting by the "hero" of about ten men, most of whom were just in the room at the wrong time.
Two of my favorite books, at least in the past, are Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth, both by L. Ron Hubbard (yes, the Scientology founder, he was a good SF writer). But it is dawning on my how brutal the heroes of those books are. And both of those, unlike the Clint's tainted protagonists, are understood to be true-blue, total heroes, with blonde hair and square jaws and everything.
The hero of Mission Earth once murders a bunch of gangsters by gassing them in a garage. He kills several FBI agents ("nobody important") by blowing up a building. And he kills several attackers by kicking the faces off them with the bottoms of his football boots, which have metal spikes.
And the hero of Battlefield Earth saves the enslaved peoples of the known universe by blowing up the home world of the villain race, with a whole civilization of probably 30 Billion people. It is dryly noted that he found it "hard to take responsibility for that much destruction". Yeah, I imagine.
Indeed, not only are us Earthlings so used to violence and hate and conflict that we barely notice it, and fail to distance ourselves from it, but if you think about it, there is barely a "hero" tale told in books or films which does not include bloody acts of murder against the "villains" of the story.